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Gnomeo & Juliet: The strength are in the voices

Director: Kelly Asbury
Release Date: February 11, public health 2011
Screenplay: Kelly Asbury, Mark Burton, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Steve Hamilton Shaw, John R. Smith, Rob Sprackling
Cast: Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Ashley Jensen, Jason Statham, Matt Lucas, Jim Cummings, Ozzy Osbourne, Stephen Merchant, Julie Walters
Based on the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

I thought Gnomeo and Juliet would either be a hit or a miss, but definitely better than the dreadful Sanctum earlier in the week.

Gnomeo & Juliet is the same story written by William Shakespeare – the famous Romeo and Juliet story of course, without, as one might expect, a tragic ending. There is a feud that exists between the red and the blue gnomes, who tend to the gardens of the human beings whose last names are that of Montague and Capulet. No one knows how the feud began, but one exists anyhow. Tybalt (Jason Statham), a red gnome, loves to wreak havoc on the blue gnomes, but especially Gnomeo, due to their passion in racing each other on lawnmowers down the alleyway. However, no one really likes Tybalt, including his own as they simply just fear him instead. Gnomeo’s bumbling friend Benny (Matt Lucas) help Gnomeo on his quest to seek revenge on the Reds, and Juliet has her spouting water friend Nanette (Ashley Benson) to confide in. After a chance meeting in an abandoned garden and befriending the plastic flamingo Featherstone, Juliet and Gnomeo fall in love (of course). As the feud escalates higher, their lives are at stake and revenge takes a dangerous step.

Voiced by an extremely strong cast (James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as the two leads), in addition to Ashley Benson (Ugly Betty, Accidentally on Purpose), Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart, Dolly Parton, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham and a continuing line of famous actors, it is their work that carries the film.

Cute characterizations of a mushroom, a deer, rabbits, and funny positioned gnomes add to the magic of the garden life. Funny quotes are changed (Kick in the *ss turns into kick in the grass, for example). Benny is somewhat endearing, and it is easy to hate on Tybalt. However, I did find the love between Gnomeo and Juliet rather unbelievable, but maybe this is because I have great disdain for the original. Having said that, I may actually prefer this animated light heart version. The animation isn’t anything that special, and the 3D was forgettable about five minutes into the film. I would have actually preferred having seen the film in 2D (Note: The 3D in the movie is clearly not worth it as it’s not really all that immersive) given how DARK the movie looked under 3D. It was quite possibly the theatre, given that I went to see it at an older theatre, but the darkness took me out of the film quite a bit. I thought a few lines of the movie, and how they incorporated “garden fare” into the film was very clever, but the overall film was no Pixar film, or How to Train Your Dragon. It shocked me to also find during the credits that a group of ten writers wrote the screenplay.

I wondered whether or not kids would love it, as the kids around me weren’t laughing, but it seemed like a movie that kids would enjoy. Some of the Shakespearan references might have gone over their heads. One part that I absolutely loved was the appearance of “banana”. I won’t ruin it for you for those who plan to see it, but it was hilarious. All in all, there isn’t really anything overtly special in this rendition of Romeo and Juliet (at least nothing that compares to the colorful 1996 Baz Luhrman version or my 1968 favorite directed by Franco Zeffirelli.) This one is definitely for the kids, and it’s cute and enjoyable. But there lacks a bit of magic that would have made me love the film. There is no malleable chemistry between many of the leads, and the only major standout to me is Nanette. And even the moral of the story – that nothing good ever comes from fighting and avenge – becomes lost. Shakespeare’s message comes through loud and clear with the deaths of his star crossed lovers, but here, despite the ending in Gnomeo & Juliet, the message is lost in the rubble.

The soundtrack is amazing and fun, mostly composed and sung by Elton John, with the help of James Newton Howard. But these elements just churn out a very average film, that while cute, entertaining and great for Valentine’s Day, will be easily forgotten once you walk out of the theatre.

Good animation, good effects. Talented cast and great soundtrack. Lack of magic, believability (I say this in seriousness, due to lack of character development and chemistry) make this all very average. Kids probably will enjoy. If you must, see this in 2D. Otherwise, I’d say rental. 2.5 gnomes / 5 gnomes.

If you liked this film, you might enjoy:
Kung Fu Panda, Shrek, Monsters vs. Aliens

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