The tragic story of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” has been told many, many times. The opening scene of the animated film “Gnomeo and Juliet”, directed by Kelly Ashbury, acknowledges this fact, and promises that it will tell the story differently. Well, it certainly is different. I’ll give it that.
“Gnomeo and Juliet” is, if you can’t tell from the oh-so-clever title, a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet” enacted by garden gnomes who are caught up in a feud between their neighbor owners, the Montagues and the Capulets, who live on Verona Lane (again, oh-so-clever). One garden houses the blue-hatted gnomes, while the other is home to the reds. The gnomes are devoted to keeping their respective gardens looking as pretty as possible, while trying to undermine their neighbors and beat them in, yes, lawnmower races. But then one day Gnomeo (James McAvoy), a blue gnome, has a chance encounter with Juliet (Emily Blunt), a red gnome, and it’s love at first sight. But as Juliet’s funky frog statue friend Nanette (Ashley Jensen) says, it’s a doomed love. So the couple are forced to make a choice between continuing to aid their families in keeping up the feud, and forgetting them and running off to be together, but this is a G-rated family film, so it’s safe to assume that the ending will be less tragic than Shakespeare’s original tale. It’s all set to music by Elton John and features the obligatory plastic flamingo (the Spanish-speaking Featherstone, voiced by Jim Cummings).
“Gnomeo and Juliet” features quite the all-star cast. Besides McAvoy, Blunt, and Cummings, there’s Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Patrick Stewart, Julie Waters, even Ozzie Osborne and Hulk Hogan. But they are far from enough to hold up this parody, which is nothing more than a string of silly Shakespeare references, forced jokes, and the occasional dramatic/romantic moment that doesn’t come off as nearly dramatic or romantic enough—I mean, they are garden gnomes. In fact, there is not a single funny moment in this movie, certainly not for the parents, and probably not for their kids either (unless they are about a year old and have never seen a movie in their short little lives). And a lot of the characters are just too bizarre. A frog that acts like a silly teenage girl? A flamingo that doesn’t make sense half the time? A swimsuit-clad gnome that appears at random intervals? A mushroom that can sniff out a gnome’s scent? By the way, how can the gnomes even have children? I suppose that’s not really a significant detail in the context of this movie, but it’s something to think about.
The animation is cute and colorful but far less than stunning. This film is showing in 3D, but I’ll save you some time right now and tell you that it’s not even worth spending money on in 2D. All in all, it’s completely lifeless and unoriginal, a strange combination of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Toy Story” that doesn’t work on any level.
Runtime: 84 minutes. Rated G.
Visit National Cinemedia to find theaters and showtimes for “Gnomeo and Juliet” in the St. Louis area.
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