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So you’re telling me you want a new twist on Shakespeare? Fine, but first you must ask yourself some basic questions. What hasn’t been done already? Where does your story take place? And most importantly…how do you avoid creating a terrible Baz Luhrmann version that does nothing but confuse the mind and fill the theater with the stench of over-the-top acting. It’s been fifteen years and I can still smell it…horrible. Hey, here’s an idea. How about a bunch of garden gnomes having a backyard feud because one group wears blue and the other wears red? If you’re thinking to yourself “Yeah right, that would never work”, then I say guess again. It can and does work in the film “Gnomeo & Juliet”. This highly entertaining animated film is exactly what Shakespeare geeks who also happen to love animation have been waiting for. If that doesn’t describe you, don’t worry, you’ll enjoy it as well.
The story is basically a loose retelling of William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet”, which is pretty obvious by the title of the film. Gnomeo, played by James McAvoy, is a blue gnome who lives in Mrs. Montague’s back yard with the rest of his blue gnome buddies. The yard is ruled by Gnomeo’s mother Lady Blueberry. On the other side of the fence is the back yard of Mr. Capulet. That’s where Juliet, played by Emily Blunt, lives with her overprotective father Lord Redbrick and the rest of the red gnomes. Every day when the two homeowners leave, the gnomes come to life and the feuding begins. One of the main contests between the gnomes is lawnmower racing with Gnomeo racing for the blues and the fiery Tybalt leading the reds. Of course, just like in the original story, one thing leads to another and Gnomeo and Juliet fall in love. They are told their bliss is doomed since a blue and a red would never be allowed to marry. The gnomes love is so strong they must find a way to be together and since this is a cartoon, wackiness obviously ensues.
“Gnomeo & Juliet” is filled with an eclectic cast that includes Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Ozzy Osbourne, Dolly Parton, Patrick Stewart, Jim Cummings, Julie Walters, and Hulk Hogan. Everyone does a fine job and gets a chance at a few clever one-liners. “Gnomeo & Juliet” also does a nice job with its use of cultural references past and present. If you watch closely, you’ll notice a clever homage to Shakespeare’s other works throughout. The film’s music, which is made up of classic songs by Elton John, is also impressive. The use of “Bennie and the Jets” is particularly cute and gave me a good chuckle.
One thing you should be aware of when going to see “Gnomeo & Juliet” is that a lot of the humor skews towards older audiences. Little ones in the audience might become bored or lose interest quickly. But for older kids and adults, “Gnomeo and Juliet” is good clean backyard fun. Anyway, that’s the way I see it.
Directed by: Kelly Asbury
Release Date: February 11, 2011
Run Time: 84 minutes
Distributor: Miramax Films