Gnomeo & Juliet
Many examples of classic literature are so engrained not only in our culture but in our collective social consciousness. As part of her humanistic heritage it is the responsibility of each generation to reinterpret these enduing stories adapting them in such a way as to place that generation’s stamp upon it making it their own. Of all the stories that have deservedly received this treatment a large number were written by the foundation of English literature, William Shakespeare. Even in that illustrious Parthenon of stories one of the tales most frequently revisited is that of the star crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. There have been straight forward Elizabethan productions, modernizations and even an award winning musical gracing both stage and screen. The story has every required plot device to make it great; undeserved misfortune, romance and the right touch of action. Having been a longtime fan of film and Broadway I thought I had seen practically every possible variation of this play imaginable. I’ve had this thought before and once again this story aptly provides the basis for yet another novel, or at least interesting twist; set the story on a pair of lawns populated by rival packs of garden gnomes. Yes, the time for this success of these popular, albeit tacky adornments have moved on from entertaining advertising online travel sites to staring in feature films. At least they are more fun to watch than a certain insurance company’s cave men and there is existing promotions on millions of American lawns. There is nothing to guess about in this presentation, no mystery as to the Bard being the source material. The filmmakers here have planted their tongues firmly in their cheeks by retaining many of the names from the original play. While this may not be obvious to the younger primary target demographic it will give a chuckle to anyone who passed high School English Literature. While not great it is pleasing, innocuous and has the making for a fun family afternoon movie time. it is a popcorn flick from a reliable source, the Walt Disney Studios, and is now available in DVD, Blu-ray, the new high definition 3D and digital copy for families on the go. One thing about Disney is they are typically good about supporting changing formats. If you are on the fence about the investment in 3D hardware for about five dollars more you can get all the formats at once and have something ready to watch the day you move up to 3D.
In a nicely appointed suburban community two lawns in close proximity are the setting for a bitter rivalry between two groups of garden gnomes. In this world beyond the notice of the humans are two established ‘houses’ of these little statues; the Red Gnomes and their traditional enemies the Blue Gnomes. This animosity is a reflection of the elderly human owners of the properties, Mrs. Montague (voiced by Julie Walters) for the Blue contingent and Mr. Capulet (voiced by Richard Wilson) for the Red faction. One day the long standing animosity between the two clans is fanned when a lawnmower race is won by Red Tybalt (voiced by Jason Statham) over Blue Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy). Allegations of cheating are raised by the Reds but ignored by the Blues leading to a covert raid that night Gnomeo and his best friend Benny (voiced by Matt Lucas) to tag the Red lawnmower with blue paint. That plan for revenge goes awry when Benny accidently trips an alarm. The both flee but Gnomeo winds up in the garden of Lord Redbrick (voiced by Michael Caine), named Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt). Although strictly forbidden by both clans the two immediately fall deeply in love. As the romance grows retaliation escalates on both sides making any thought of revealing their love impossible. Arguably, Romeo and Juliet are among the most popular plays of Shakespeare’s to be reinterpreted into other media, particularly among the tragedies. Forbidden love is infused throughout the history of our species present in every culture’s mythology and practically every format of literature. Something that is so readily relatable to people that very little of the story is required to establish the animosities and the young couple in love who would dare to defy it. The situation is universal, where the dispute originated from different clicks in high school to such famous animosities as the Hatfield’s and the McCoy’s. The underlying truth that supports the foundation of the stories is that any to give in groups are prone to hate each other and teenagers will express their rebellion by falling in love with someone deemed forbidden. Having this played out garden gnomes is absolutely ingenious. The kids are bound to get into the colorful characters silliness of the whole situation any of the parents that remember covering Shakespeare in English literature will be able to get the many references to the original play that are sprinkled liberally throughout the movie.
The level of computer animation is up to what we have come to expect but the one thing that is lacking is the heart, the sheer pathos that is delivered time and time again by Pixar/Disney collaboration. Not only is the Pixar logo missing here but everything that animation house could have brought to the movie is absent. This is not to say this is a bad movie; it is an enjoyable family popcorn flick but masterpieces such as ‘WALL-E’ and ‘Up’ has spoiled us by raising expectations exceptionally high. Those films were more than just great animated films there stand as great examples of cinema. When a good, solid enjoyable animated movie like ‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ comes along expectations may just be set above what the movie can possibly achieve. This movie will bring your family some laughs, a few age appropriate thrills and a proven romantic story. The vocal talents here are amazing with the upcoming English actress Emily Blunt simply delightful as the voice of the love struck lady gnome. I also found one of my favorite action heroes, Jason Statham, able to provide one of the better variations of Tybalt I’ve seen, or rather heard, in a long while. Of in the line in the document I have been a fan of Sir Michael Caine since I watched him in ‘Alfie’ so many years ago. His familiar voice is a welcomed addition to any movie. You also get one of the most refined and distinctive voices around with Patrick Stewart intoning the voice of a statue of William Shakespeare. The use of 3D in this movie was directly on the cusp between utilizing the illusion of depth as a gimmick and employing it is a truly integral part of relating the story to the audience. In addition to the standard obstacles of translating theatrical play to the visual intensive medium of movies. The creative mind behind this work had something else to deal with; a movie extensively targeted for such a young demographic can’t realistically and death and suicide of the titular characters. Thankfully, the tradition a reimagining Shakespearean plays allows for quite a liberal use of modification that basically completely changing the end of the story is acceptable considering the new context. Although the audience is led to believe that go me over is indeed dead. He manages the pop up at the last minute. This provides the requisite fairytale "and they lived happily ever after" that we attend to most children stories. Those that might object that such a change in one of the underlying themes of the original work is keep in mind the foundation of the story is overcoming the obstacles inherent star-crossed love. Also remember the fight scene in the original, Romeo and Juliet was not choreographed as a ballet performed by two street gangs that may have dropped out of high school but never missed the dance class at Juilliard. Ultimately, one of the most enjoyable things about this movie is it is not pretentious; pretending to be greater than it is. It presents itself as a fun, modern twist on the classic theme that can be enjoyed by the entire family. Succeeds and that rather well. The 3D effects not only rise above many of the other animated films that can challenge a number of live-action incursions into this new technique.
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