Chloe and her mother have just moved – again. She’s desperate the fit in with the popular crowd, and she almost (so close!) does it too. There’s just one little problem. The garden gnomes infesting her new house have a purpose. They’re guarding a portal to another dimension. Every night, a few monsters break through, and if left to their own devices, they’d eat humanity out of house and home in a minute and a half. On the other side of the portal, an even bigger monster awaits. Can they keep the monsters at bay while keeping Chloe’s street cred high? And how does the helpful nerd next door fit in?
This is a B-list animated movie with a C-list voice cast: George Lopez is the most recognizable, following in steeply descending order by Becky G, Josh Peck, and Tara Strong, if those names mean anything to you. The animation is okay, but let’s just point out the elephant in the room: there’s already an animated franchise wherein garden gnomes come to life. Not only does this stink of plagiarism, it’s just annoyingly unoriginal. This is animation, people. You can draw anything. You could have made a retro Tupperware set come to life, or some grubby fridge magnets, or discarded winter parkas.
But, okay, this is a kids movie, for kids, and possibly by kids, judging by the quality. Your 4 year old will probably love it if they don’t find it too scary or notice that there’s very little structure to the story. Nor do we get to know our characters at all. I’m sure there’s a reason why Chloe and her mother move so much, and why her dad’s not around, and why her mother feels comfortable flying to another city, leaving Chloe home utterly alone, not yet knowing a single other soul in the city. What does that matter when the movie is basically a commercial for super soakers, only these Nerf-like guns are filled with green ooze that can banish (never say kill in a kids’ movie!) the monsters on the spot.
And let’s not even crack open the good old trope that tween girls are vapid and self-absorbed. It’s 2018: not every school is filled with mean girls. Not every protagonist has to change herself in order to fit in. And not every nerd needs a pretty girl to popularize him. This may float with kids but it will sink with most parents. And don’t we owe it to the gnomes to strive for better?