Plot: As her mother’s work requires her to move often, young Chloe has been in countless schools and never been able to really make friends, since she is always just around for a short while. After so many goodbyes, she now puts in little effort to even get to know her peers and spends her time on the phone, watching videos or playing little games. But her latest new school proves to be a little different, as after she gets a tour of the halls from the geeky Liam, she manages to catch the attention of Brittany, the most popular girl in school. Meanwhile at home, Chloe discovers a number of eerie garden gnomes and soon learns these aren’t just decorations, but living gnomes and they need her help. Now pulled into a social world at school and a gnome battle at home, can Chloe find some kind of balance and perhaps even make some real friends for the first time in a long time?

Entertainment Value: The premise of Gnome Alone feels a lot like Mean Girls at first, which reeled me in, but soon shifts into a balance between the high school drama and an epic battle that centers on garden gnomes. This proves to be a middle of the road, but still fun animated feature that takes some minor risks, such as the near occult gnome elements, which help spice up the ride. The story is a little convoluted, but works well enough and while the two threads never weave into a cohesive package, there are enough small moments to make a general connection. The tone leans on the lighter side, as you’d expect given the target audience of younger viewers, but the writing touches on some serious topics, like social circles, feeling isolated, and of course, ancient battles between mystical forces. The humor is never hilarious, but elicits some laughs here and there, so it isn’t that bad either. I think this feels like a made for television movie, as it hits some right notes, but doesn’t come close to even lower tier theatrical films of similar content. But if you need a new movie for younger viewers or just love garden gnomes, give Gnome Alone a shot.

I think the film’s visuals are one of the strong points here, as the animation is vivid and colorful, with fun design elements. These visual perks help balance out the animation’s lesser aspects, as the overall animation isn’t on par with theatrical features, so it looks less refined and polished. A step above digital animation on television shows, but still a noticeable step down from the film’s theatrical peers. I still think the design choices and fun, vibrant visuals help compensate, as it keeps you hooked into the film’s look, even if it isn’t as slick as other animated features. The voice cast is passable, but no one seems too into their roles, so it winds up as adequate, but basic. So no one stands out as overly memorable and that’s a shame, as I think the material could be improved if the cast had invested more. The cast includes Becky G, Tara Strong, Josh Peck, George Lopez, George Koechner, and Olivia Holt.

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