Movie Review – Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

Director: Kelly Asbury

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

It’s Romeo and Juliet but with Gnomes. A Ms. Capulet and a Mr. Montague live next door to one another, and their gnomes (and other garden ornaments) take on the neighbours’ rivalry. The Capulets are red and the Montagues are blue, and they have a fierce vendetta that escalates dramatically when Gnomeo falls in love with Juliet. Can their love escape the tragic fate that befell their Shakespearean counterparts?

I’d actually been wanting to watch this movie for a while. I have a fondness for puns and the whole idea of doing Romeo & Juliet with gnomes is so bizarre that it had me intrigued. There are some liberties taken with the story of course, there’s no Mercutio for example, and it is a family film so it can’t get too tragic, but on the whole I think it stayed true to the source material. The gnomes and the rules of their world were charming and despite it being a family film there were a few brutal moments that had me wincing.

I liked the romance between the titular characters, but there were a few subplots that proved interesting as well, like the harrowing backstory of a plastic flamingo or the sheer destruction that a $10,000 lawnmower promises. There’s always something going on and as the film is only around 75 minutes there’s a lot packed in. As such it does feel rushed at certain points, and there are a few moments where I’m not sure the timeline matches up with regards to how far certain characters have to travel, but it doesn’t distract from the film too much.

There’s also a deeper concept of how our actions and attitude can reflect upon the world. After all, the gnomes only hate each other because it is the behaviour they perceive from their human owners, and it reflects the idea that hate is taught rather than it being innate to our beings. Once the gnomes take the time to realize their similarities they see that they’re not so different after all, and although the message is subtle I hope that it filters through to the people watching the movie.

The soundtrack is almost exclusively made up of Elton John songs, and he is listed as a producer as well. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but I do love Elton John’s music so the songs add an extra element to the film and it puts it on another level to films like Alvin and the Chipmunks.

I liked all the wordplay in the script and I found myself giggling quite often. I think this is a film that a great many people could enjoy. Children will like the animation and lively nature of the comedy while adults will get a kick out of the references to the original play. I’d actually like to see more Shakespeare plays get adapted in this way, but if all we get is Gnomeo & Juliet it’s still worth it. It actually made me want to go back and re-watch Baz Luhrmann’s version as well.

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