GNOMEO & JULIET
Starring the voice talents of Emily Blunt, James McAvoy,Maggie Smith and Michael Caine
Written by Kelly Ashbury, Mark Burton, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Andy Riley and Steve Hamilton Shaw
Based on the work by William Shakespeare
Directed by Kelly Ashbury
Running time 84 min
MPAA Rating G
Selig Film Rating Matinee
The story of Romeo & Juliette has been one of the most enduring tales ever put on any type of stage. There have been many versions on the silver screen, some exact and others with wide interpretations. The newest is an animated feature that comes from Disney and Rocket (Elton John's company) and is called Gnomeo and Juliet.
The movie opens with a garden gnome on stage, letting us know that this will be the classic tale told a different way. It is both funny and endearing, while giving a gimmick off the 3D effects. We open up to a simple English street called Verona. A split duplex with one side red and the other blue is shown, with perfectly kept back yards. One family is Capulet and the other Montague. The garden gnomes in either yard is Red–Capulet or Blue–Montague. The little figures have been in battle for years with neither side wanting to end the feud.
Gnomeo (James McAvoy) is the son of the Blue Queen Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) and Juliet (Emily Blunt) is the daughter of the Red King Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine). Both monarchs have lost they spouses and dote on the future rulers Each side hates the other.
While going for an orchid, our Juliet meets Gnomeo and each is smitten with the other while not realizing that the other is from the enemy camp. They are both disguised for different reasons. Even though they are enemies, the forbidden spark is there and they begin a relationship. The friends of each warn them of the impending doom that awaits star-crossed lovers but they cannot break away from each other. The two befriend a pink flamingo who has his own tale of unrequited love. This is the wacky sidekick role that always pops up in these films but his story does have a definite sad side.
The film uses some of Shakespeare's dialog but doesn't go for the tragic ending, playing against the convictions of the tale. Gnomeo meets the statue of William Shakespeare and finds out the true tragic ending of the original take. This take is loosely based on the work of the Bard but has a gaggle of screenwriters to give a different spin to the tale. The ending of Gnomeo & Juliet is more along the lines of the Bard's comedies than tragedies.
While the leads are all fine in both voice and acting, there are more than a few aural cameos such as Patrick Stewart as William Shakespeare. In the vocal mix are such unique timbres as Hulk Hogan and Ozzy Osborne. The film does have many 'in-jokes' throughout the proceedings such as the moving company being Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. The makers peppered the film with reference upon reference to the works of the Bard, making repeat viewing a must.
The music is all Elton John with symphonic accompaniment, which means it is familiar and lyric. "Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" is used as a racing song to pump up the action while "Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word" is given a melancholy overtone. The entire exercise just makes the film work on a different level.
While not on the level of Pixar, Gnomeo and Juliet does entertain and never wears out its welcome. While not a great film, it is an enjoyable slight kids entertainment with enough educated references to keep the adults on their toes.