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WILL AND ME: Gnomeo & Juliet (2011) Review

Updated on July 22, 2017
The original poster for the Italian release of the film.
The original poster for the Italian release of the film. | Source

GNOMEO & JULIET (2011) REVIEW

CAST:

James McAvoy; Emily Blunt; Ashley Jensen; Jim Cummings; Sir Michael Caine; Dame Maggie Smith; Matt Lucas; Jason Statham; Ozzy Osborne; Dolly Parton; Hulk Hogan; Patrick Wilson; Julia Walters; Kelly Asbury.

CREATIVE CREW:

Director—Kelly Asbury

Producers—Sir Elton John; Baker Bloodworth; David Furnish; Steve Hamilton Shaw

Writers—Story and Screen by Kelly Asbury; Mark Burton; Andy Riley; Kevin Cecil; Emily Cook; Kathy Greenberg; Steve Hamilton Shaw. Based on a screenplay by John R. Smith & Rob Sprackling. Inspired by the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

***

Two households, both alike in—what barely passes as—dignity, in Fair Verona Drive, where director Kelly Asbury lays our scene. From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. (Whatever that means!) From forth the fatal lions of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed gnomes take their life….

That’s right! You read correctly: “A pair of star crossed gnomes.” Set in the garden of two feuding neighbours (voiced by Patrick Wilson and Julia Walters) living in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, a collection of garden gnomes that come alive whenever their individual owners have gone, deal with their own feud: For God knows how many years, the gnomes living in the garden of Redbrick have been warring with the gnomes living in the garden of the Bluebury, doing whatever they can to ruin each other’s utopia. From chopping down prized flower to destroying the lawn morrows of their owners during frequent drag races, they show no mercy towards their enemies. With every act of destruction that they commit, they certainly make it clear that they’ll never put the past behind them.

However, the question of ever ending the feud is put to the test when, during a failed night-time mission conducted by Gnomeo (James McAvoy), the only sound of Lady Bluebury (Dame Maggie Smith), to sabotage the Redbrick’s garden, he comes across a female gnome by the name of Juliet (Emily Blunt), trying to steal a valuable flower from the abandon garden of the Laurences, in order to prove to her overprotective father, Lord Redbrick (Sir Michael Caine), that she is capable of being an independent woman. From the moment Gnomeo and Juliet meet, the two instantly fall in love, regardless of being from two different gardens. With the help of Juliet’s overly enthusiastic frog friend, Nanette (Ashley Jensen), and a good-natured but heartbroken plastic flamingo named Featherstone (Jim Cummings), the two begin to court each other behind their family’s clay made backs.

The relationship seems romantic at first, but things become strained when the war between the two gardens grow angrier each day, leaving the two lovers to question: Will their love live forever, or will it be doomed to suffer from untimely tragedy. What will their fate bring?

Whenever you hear of someone taking one of the most famous romantic plays in English history and retelling it in a form of a parody or a “child friendly edition” is bound to get an instant backlash for apparently butchering a classic. Most people don’t like the idea of the most famous plays or novels in classic literature (whether it be Dickens, Dumas, Marlowe, or in this case, Shakespeare) being modernized, simplified and/or censored, thus are quick to say that a cutesy children’s version of a classic tragedy is an act of cinematic murder. Gnomeo & Juliet, however, is NOT like that at all. Usually, a children’s version of a play like Romeo and Juliet never works out well. But really, that is because of the project receiving a poorly written screenplay and an incompetent director. But this film on the other hand was written by passionate writers and directed by an experienced director. (Not those unknown directors who only know who to direct for low rate children’s television than cinema.)

Most critics said this film was okay; but I say: IT’S BRILLIANT!

From the moment we see an inch high gnome (a goon belonging to the Redbrick garden) reciting an adorable and funny-cause-it’s-true parody of the Romeo and Juliet prologue, it is a non-stop ride of laughter and family entertainment. There is hardly anything negative I can say about the film: The voice casting is brilliant, especially the casting of the funniest people in the industry to voice some of the funniest characters to ever feature in an animated film: Matt Lucas (as Benny, Romeo’s best friend), Ozzy Osborne (as a talking fawn living with the Redbricks), Ashley Jensen, Patrick Wilson, Julia Walters, Patrick Stewart (in a cameo appearance as William Shakespeare himself), Dolly Parton and director Kelly Asbury as the various voices of the show-stealing inch high Redbrick goons that I mentioned earlier. All the characters are creations of comedic genius, along with the brilliant delivery, quick wit and acting quality of the cast themselves. They are truly the Launces or Falstaffs of this century.

The animation and general look of the film is bursting with colour and the most brilliant examples of “blink and you miss it” in jokes you can ever see in a film based a cultural landmark. As the story is based on a Shakespeare play, and that the setting in Stratford-upon-Avon, the filmmakers have put a range of Shakespearean in jokes everywhere: A removal company named after Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; a ticket stub for a production of As You Like It; the address of the warring neighbours being 2B and not 2B (with the latter having a the circular no symbol over it, hinting at that reference); and there is even a dog named Damn Spot. If you’re a fan of Shakespeare, you’re going to love playing a game of Spot the Shakespeare Reference with your fellow literature scholars or artistic nerds.

The writing is filled with great one-liners and storytelling (including a VERY funny parody of the famous balcony seen which will be right up the alley of those few not-so-literary high school students who had to study the “O Romeo” and “a rose by any other name” speeches till their eyes bleed); and the music, featuring songs by Sir Elton John, is the most beautiful score you can ever hear. In fact, it is the music of Sir Elton (who served as executive producer for the film) that really glues this whole project together. It is a wisely chosen catalogue of his classics, plus a new song entitled Hello, Hello, played during the cute first meeting of Juliet and Gnomeo, and the film’s end credits. The song should really have been released as a single, for it is the most touching love song to ever be written, even during a dark period of the music industry where doped up rappers and talentless boy bands seem to be hailed as the modern Lord Byrons. Hello, Hello is a brilliant song that tugs at the heartstrings and may even make you shed a tear. (I know my eyes started to get watery when it played during the credits, serving as a worthy playout for a film you’ll want to remember for as long as you live.)

The film is a fun flick. The only criticism I do have about the film is:

A—The character of Featherstone, though amusing in SOME scenes, attends to become a weak character in the narrative, especially being voiced by an actor who appears is far too many movies and Saturday morning cartoons. Jim Cummings may have a talented of putting on over 100 different voices, but the fact he has appears in almost every f***ing animated film or animated series begins to get as annoying as the character he plays in this film. At first he appears funny and unique; eventually, you wish he would just exit stage and never back for the curtain call. (It will be nothing short of a miracle to finally see Cummings retire someday! He should take a holiday once in a while!)

And

B—The film should have been longer. It has a great cast of characters and many great plot devices, it would have been nice to see the filmmakers look into that a lot more. Make the film longer so that it could allow time for more detailed psychology and backstory of the characters. To use a specific approach to the motivations of the characters, instead of sticking with the simple: “He loves her; she loves him; he hates them; they hate him.” I’m sure the kids wouldn’t have minded if Gnomeo & Juliet was a little longer. I’m pretty certain that they would love an excuse to sit around in front of the T.V. all day for more than the typical hour and a half run time that a lot of children’s flicks go for. (But, that’s just me!)

All in all, it’s such a fantastic film. A perfect opportunity to sit together as a family and laugh together like never before. Gnomeo & Juliet is full of comedy, drama, romance, and a nice little satire on the world of Shakespeare. (Though certainly not in a mean way!!)

Tis a film that has everything for thy family to enjoy. Go and watch it immediately!


A promotional screensaver showing a scene from the movie where Juliet is prepared for her first date with Gnomeo.
A promotional screensaver showing a scene from the movie where Juliet is prepared for her first date with Gnomeo. | Source

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