Gnomeo & Juliet
Gnome Run: Gnomeo & Juliet takes Shakespeare to kids (and only needs to be seen once).
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Could this be it? Has Disney found a way to make Shakespeare appealing to kids? Gnomeo & Juliet may not be the most faithful retelling of Romeo & Juliet, but it is cute, clever and entertaining as it retains the core of what the Bard created roughly 400 years ago.
The biggest difference is obvious: the main characters are garden gnomes, and they live in a Toy Story-type world that forces them to freeze any time a human is near. To keep it easy for kids to know who hates whom, the Capulets are clad in red while their longtime neighbors/rivals, the Montagues, wear sky-blue.
The families’ unexplained hatred makes it especially dangerous when Gnomeo (James McAvoy), a Montague, ventures off on his own and bumps into Juliet (Emily Blunt), a Capulet. It’s love at first sight for the star-crossed lovers, and with the help of Elton John and Lady Gaga’s duet “Hello, Hello” playing on the soundtrack, we immediately love them as a couple.
The rest of the story plays out in expectedly familiar form, but darn if it doesn’t have some clever twists that allow it to be (relatively) loyal to Shakespeare’s play while remaining distinctly G-rated. Specifically, the way Gnomeo’s “death” is handled is exceptionally clever, as is the resolution of the rivalry between Gnomeo and Tybalt (Jason Statham).
What’s more, there are a number of sly references to other Shakespeare plays, including the line “out, out damn spot” from Macbeth, and even a statue of Shakespeare himself makes an appearance, which would be cheesy were it not voiced by the great Patrick Stewart. Disney also works in a reference to its Enchanted Tiki Room attraction that, if you’re familiar with it, explains in a metaphorical way why and how the gnomes are able to come alive.
The voice cast is strong and keeps the laughs coming consistently: Michael Caine and Maggie Smith voice the heads of the respective families, and Ashley Jensen gets a lot of laughs as Nanette, Juliet’s assistant. The only real misfire is Jim Cummings’ Featherstone, a pink flamingo who refuses to leave the lovers alone. The character is supposed to add context, but really just adds annoyance.
And then there’s the 3-D, which is needless. It does nothing to enhance the story or add anything of value to the movie. Gnomeo & Juliet is certainly worth seeing, but not worth jacked-up 3-D prices.
Romeo & Juliet has been adapted for the big screen numerous times, and also transferred to different eras and settings (West Side Story). But never before has it been told via animated garden gnomes, and certainly once is enough. Thankfully Disney has made the most of the opportunity, creating a delightful experience for kids that’ll allow parents to watch with a knowing, satisfied smile.
GNOMEO & JULIET (3) Directed by Kelly Asbury • Voiced by James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart • 84 min • Rated G • At Century Cinemas Del Monte and Maya Cinemas.