Notable Cast (Voice): James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Matt Lucas, Jim Cummings, Stephen Merchant, Patrick Stewart, Maggie Smith
Review: Right, so let’s adapt one of the most tragic and harrowing love stories of all time…for children. We all know how the story ends, both jilted lovers die. So could Gnomeo & Juliet keep the same integrity and heart wrenching ending, while adapting it to cute ceramic gnomes? Please, I think we can all answer that question. As far as kids movies go, Gnomeo & Juliet suffers the usual pitfalls of nonsensical and silly humor, while counter actively having some shining moments of cleverly intelligent humor. The hardest part of watching Gnomeo & Juliet was not in quality alone, but more in wasted potential and poor execution. New adaptations of old classics are always a welcome idea, but not when the target audience doesn’t match that of the original story. Children don’t want tragedy and drama; just a bunch of colorful gnomes dancing around to music. At least they’ll get that mind numbingly much.
We all know the story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Boy loves girl, girl loves boy, but their feuding families prevent them from achieving their full love. Well, apply that to garden gnomes. Young Gnomeo (McAvoy) is a member of the Blue clan, while the beautiful (in gnome terms I guess) Juliet (Blunt) is a member of the red clan (and by clan I mean house color). For years the two sides have been at war with one another, being upheld by Lord Redbrick (Caine) and Lady Bluebury (Smith). One night while they’re on separate missions, they meet up by chance and discover their undying love for each other. Of course, Gnomeo and Juliet can’t publicly display their love, so they must sneak to a secret garden every day just to spend time together. But when their clan based duties get in the way of their love, they see their differences may keep them apart forever. The question then becomes, can Gnomeo and Juliet set aside their obvious differences for the love they both deserve? Or will the colors red and blue separate them forever? It’s a cheesy kids flick, so we can all assume it won’t.
Listen, I’m a sucker for animated flicks. Kung Fu Panda holds a special place on my DVD rack, the Toy Story franchise holds a special place in time, and Ratatouille holds a special place in my heart. But Gnomeo & Juliet doesn’t tug on any of the strings either of those animated classics did. Gnomeo & Juliet lacked heart and drive, instead just banking on the fact that the audience would take to their clever interpretation of a respected story and fall right in place with their sub par joking. Let’s not forget though, the target audience for this film is youngens who have probably never even heard of Shakespeare himself. Apparently, the formula for Gnomeo & Juliet was to combine Shakespeare with random Elton John songs thanks to his executive producer credit. There are also subtle references to Shakespeare’s other works that you’ll miss if you don’t pay attention to every detail. But, is the majority of the audience really supposed to get such subtle references like “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Moving Company” and “Tempest Teapot Company”…or whichever reference The Tempest was thrown into? The funniest of references will go directly over the head of children, while the funniest moments for kids will be unbearable for adults. Gnomeo & Juliet never strikes that balance which melds enjoyable adult entertainment with wholesome family fun, and is just a mish mosh of scenes.
The adaptation of the original Romeo and Juliet story plays very loosely in the film, as Gnomeo & Juliet takes it upon itself to rewrite the epic story. In the recurring fashion, Gnomeo & Juliet takes a minute to establish some credible creativity, only to strike it down with childish predictability. There is a rather funny exchange between Gnomeo and a Bill Shakespeare statue (voiced by Patrick Stewart) concerning the ending of the original story and how Gnomeo wants to end his scenario. Poking fun at the tragic end of Romeo and Juliet was a nice added touch; obviously Gnomeo does not want to hear that the original Romeo and Juliet kill themselves, but again the reference is lost on the children watching the movie. Wasted jokes are wasted jokes, and after a while it becomes visibly questionable why at all Shakespeare’s story is referenced except for the class differences. The power that exists in the original story stems from the sadness and sorrow, none of which can be found with these little garden decorations. Consider this the watered down version of Romeo and Juliet that would have Shakespeare rolling in his grave.
With stellar voice acting, Gnomeo & Juliet had no reason to be a lackluster as it was. Let’s face it, it had Statham in it as the villain Tybalt, Michael Caine as Redbrick, and little cameos by big names like Ozzy Osbourne, Stephen Merchant, Hulk Hogan, Dolly Parton, and the before mentioned Patrick Stewart, all aside from James McAvoy and Emily Blunt. The hilariously talented voice actor Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh/Razoul from Aladdin: this guy is all over your childhood. Check out his IMDB page to see his crazy list of voice credits) plays a pink flamingo named Featherstone, who is easily the highlight of the entire film. Featherstone is the silly comedic relief like so many other characters try to be, except Featherstone was the only character they got the formula right for. Two parts crazy, two parts lovable, and ten parts unexpected create a simplistically funny personality. You’ll wish he was a main character, but sadly our fluorescent friend is snubbed way too much screen time for the film’s overall good.
Gnomeo & Juliet was no Pixar film, so the chance for disappointment was there from the start. In a time where children’s entertainment was in its simplest forms, this could have been a better received film. But now with such high standards set for animated films like this, we won’t settle for less than the best. It seems almost unfair to expect every animated film to be at Pixar’s quality, but when you’ve seen such impressive results, why settle? It now takes more than some what should be inanimate objects dancing around to music and saying childish things to keep people hooked. The audience is more cultured now and expects something deeper, even in a simple children’s film. Gnomeo & Juliet fails to deliver for either adults or children, and is just a silly exercise in recreating something classic and expecting to cash in.
Final Rating: 5 silly ceramic talking gnomes out of 10