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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Movie Review: GNOMEO & JULIET


Gnomeo & Juliet is a 2011 animated film directed by Kelly Asbury that puts a comedic, family-friendly spin on William Shakespeare's tale of star-crossed lovers. In two gardens separated only by a fence, there lives two rival groups of garden gnomes: the Reds and the Blues. For as long as anyone can remember, the two groups have feuded, and the feud has become deeply ingrained into the Blues' favorite son, Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy). One night, he decides to infiltrate the Reds' garden, and after an unsuccessful attempt to wreak havoc, Gnomeo spots a shadowy figure running along the top of a fence towards an abandoned yard's greenhouse where a beautiful orchid sits in full bloom. He chases the figure to the flower, and after a short interchange, he realizes that she the Reds' favorite daughter, Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt). Initially, the two are repulsed by the others' true identity, but they cannot deny the immediate spark they both felt. They make plans to meet in the abandoned yard the following day, and the forbidden love affair begins. The two do their best to keep their love a secret, but with each passing moment, they have to fight to hide their affections from their families and their respective gardens. To top it off, they have to balance their feelings with the ever-growing resilience that both the Blues and the Reds are feeling towards one another, and Gnomeo and Juliet must ultimately choose between their love and their families.

When I first started seeing trailers for this film, I was originally rather excited to see it. Anything even remotely related to the tale of Romeo and Juliet - or anything Shakespearean in general - is sure to garner my attention, so Gnomeo & Juliet looked like it might be right up my alley. Upon its release, however, it started to garner some mixed reviews, and I soon found myself a little bit wary to give it a shot, chalking it up to another early-year dud. Still, something kept me wanting to watch it, and I finally had the opportunity to do so, and I have to say that I'm not quite sure why it was panned so widely.

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't know the basic story of Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, and this film essentially follows the same formula (although, as you can probably imagine, the ultimate finalé is a little tamer than the dual-suicide that Shakespeare originally wrote). We're given a relatively good screenplay that's full of goofy jokes and gags, but there's definitely enough there for adults to enjoy and laugh at. There's quite a lot of self-reference to the original story, and I think that plays pretty well throughout the story. There's even a scene where Gnomeo meets a statue of Shakespeare himself and recants his tale, to which the Shakespeare statue tells him that he knows of a very similar story. But I digress... At the end of the day, there's a lot of goofs and gags for the kids, but there's enough for an adult audience to enjoy as well.

One reason that I particularly enjoyed this film was for its astoundingly huge-name voice cast that brings life to the gnomes and other characters on-screen. I've already mentioned McAvoy and Blunt, and having those two rising stars attached to this movie already gives it quite a bit of validity, but here's a list of some of the other big names that make vocal appearances throughout this one:

Dolly Parton (as Dolly Gnome)
Jason Statham (as Tybalt, Gnomeo's main enemy)
Jim Cummings (as Featherstone, a lawn flamingo)
Maggie Smith (as Lady Bluebury, leader of the Blues)
Matt Lucas (as Benny, Gnomeo's best friend)
Michael Caine (as Lord Redbrick, leader of the Reds)
Ozzy Osbourne (as Fawn, Tybalt's friend)
Patrick Stewart (as Bill Shakespeare)

As you can see, we're given quite the list of British-accented actors to lend their voices to the film, so it was quite a treat for a film buff like myself to hear the collective voices resonating throughout the movie. Oh, and we even get a little bit of a vocal cameo from Hulk Hogan, so be on the lookout for that one (it's pretty obvious).

I'd also like to take a moment to talk about the music in the film, which is almost entirely centered around the music of Elton John. In addition to a couple of visual references to the man himself, our ears are given a taste of such Elton songs as "Crocodile Rock," "Tiny Dancer," "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," and "Your Song," as well as a few others. Although there's really no real explanation as to the usage of his music, the simple fact that we're graced with Elton John tunes throughout the movie makes it all the more watchable, in my opinion.

Overall, I'm not quite sure why this movie was received with mixed reviews. Sure, it's not the greatest animated movie I've ever seen, but it's by no means the worst I've seen either. When you add solid animation, an age-old tale, a fantastic voice cast and incredible music, you're going to come out with a winner. So grab the kids and give this one a gander. They'll enjoy it, and so will you.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: B-
1.5 Thumb Up

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