Let me start out this review with a very important disclosure: Gnomes and Trolls doesn't do anything wrong; so much as it simply doesn't bring anything memorable to the equation. I open with what should, by all facts and circumstances, should be the conclusion of this report because you are surely perusing reviews so as to determine if this film is worth your (and maybe your family's) time. In that line of thinking you can certainly do worse than to pick this DVD up (especially if you're going to rent it) but it should be said that you could do much better as well. That said, let's take a look at the facts shall we?
Gnomes & Trolls is actually a Swedish film that came out back in 2009 called Gnomes and Trolls: The Secret Chamber. It was then brought over to the Region 1 market in 2010. Here it gets a little bit confusing because right as The Secret Chamber was coming out over here, a sequel was released in Sweden called the Gnomes and Trolls: The Forest Trial. Don't let this bother you though, as the sequel has (to date) shown no signs of making it across the pond.
Anyway, with a fairly modest budget of $5-million, Gnomes and Trolls tells the tale of Junior, a teenage gnome who wants nothing more than to invent gizmos and gadgets in his tree-house laboratory. But Junior's traditional dad, Jalle, who just so happens to be the head gnome of the forest, would prefer his son follow in his footsteps.
During all of this, perpetually bickering troll brothers Face and Slim execute their evil father Fassa's carefully plotted plan to steal the food from the gnome secret food chamber. After Jalle is accidentally injured, Junior and his best friend Sneaky, a paranoid neurotic crow, embark on a heroic journey to the depths of troll cave to take back the stolen food. Junior and Sneaky's adventure takes them across vast landscapes and into encounters with the unknown.
Interestingly the film was actually conceived as a 50-minute made-for-tv affair and was stretched into a full feature length film only after pressure from Russian and Chinese distributors surfaced. As it stands, the completed work comes in at 70-minutes and the DVD-release is surprisingly devoid of extras. It should also be noted that the film represents Sweden's first foray into the realm of computer generated filmmaking.
The tale is decent enough, especially when summarized and the visuals really aren't too shabby either on a modern high-def television (especially if your DVD player can upscale to 1080p). Like most foreign films brought across the pond, Gnomes and Trolls suffers from slightly slower pacing that we western audiences have come to expect. What this means if you're still on the fence as to whether this one's right for you and yours, the plot meanders around a bit and certainly lacks much of the charm one can expect packed into a big budget Pixar or DreamWorks piece.
The fantasy element is definitely cool here and the environments are rich enough to inspire a slight feeling of wonder but the lackluster pacing and absence of layered humor for adults makes the experience pretty flat-footed overall.
So while I wasted my conclusion in the first line of this review, perhaps it would be best to end it by recommending Disney's Gnomio and Juliet if you're looking for a solid gnomish computer animated feature film that delivers on the charm of the concept of the little tinkerers and their pointed hats.