Gnomeo & Juliet

Gnomeo & Juliet

***

Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

As far as movie ideas go, they don’t come much more bonkers than this. Not content to merely present an animated take on Shakespeare’s most celebrated tragedy (which, alone, is fairly high up the bonkers-scale), Gnomeo & Juliet does so by way of warring garden gnomes and an Elton John soundtrack. But yet, while the concept is a quirky, eccentric delight, the film itself rarely feels like anything other than a run-of-the-mill animation of (ahem) garden variety standard.

In the backyards of two quarrelling next door neighbours, a bitter feud exists between their gnomes. On one side are the Blues, and on the other, the Reds. When Gnomeo (James McAvoy), son of the Blue’s leader, falls for Juliet (Emily Blunt), the daughter of the Red’s leader, the pair are forced to go against family and tradition in order to be together.

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Despite beginning with a clever visual to-be-or-not-to-be gag (brilliant), the humour is more occasionally amusing than consistently witty. No, it’s certainly not dumb or overly broad, but you soon realise that what’s in store for us won’t be offering the same smarts, depth or subtlety that Pixar routinely spoon out. Okay, so it’s perhaps an unfair comparison (after all, not everyone can deliver the same quality as the animation mega-studio) but aside from a surprisingly poignant and melancholic flashback that involves a Pink Flamingo and recalls Up, we’re definitely not in the same league.

Sure, Shrek 2 director Kelly Asbury dials up the charm and orchestrates several moments of real sweetness (including Gnomeo and Juliet’s midnight meet-cute on the roof of an old greenhouse), but you just wish that more had been done with the ingenious decision to use gnomes to re-tell the Bard’s tragic yarn.

Given that we’re dealing with small, inanimate objects that come to life when unsupervised, comparisons to Toy Story are inevitable. But instead of a fully-realised world, here the premise isn’t utilised in the same way and these little come-to-life statues get away with too much without getting noticed. At one stage you even forget that humans are only on the other side of a wall.

Still, the cast is as eclectic an ensemble as you’re likely to find, putting together the likes of Michael Caine (the Daddy of the Reds), Maggie Smith (the Mummy of the Blues), Jason Statham (the hard man of the Reds) and Ozzy Osbourne (a fawn). Both McAvoy and Blunt get pass marks as our star-crossed ornaments, but the stand-outs are Ashely Jensen (as a mouthy frog), Patrick Stewart (as a bronze statue of Shakespeare) and Richard Wilson (as – wait for it – a grumpy neighbour).

Though full of charm, sweetness and an enormously-eclectic cast, Gnomeo & Juliet doesn’t live up to it’s quirky concept.

Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2011
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Animated take on the Shakespeare tale.
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Caro Ness ***

Director: Kelly Asbury

Writer: Rob Sprackling, John R. Smith, Andy Riley, Kevin Cecil, Kelly Asbury, Steve Hamilton Shaw, Mark Burton, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, William Shakespeare

Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Ashley Jensen, Michael Caine, Matt Lucas, Jim Cummings, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Ozzy Osbourne, Stephen Merchant, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, Hulk Hogan, Kelly Asbury, Richard Wilson

Year: 2011

Runtime: 84 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK, US

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