Monday, February 12, 2018

Movie Review: Gnomeo and Juliet

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Very fun take on Shakespeare
Cons: Characters could be stronger
The Bottom Line:
Different Shakespeare
Proves to be plenty of fun
Give this film a chance

Different Take on Shakespeare Mostly Works

I pretty much dismissed Gnomeo and Juliet when it first came out, but I started reconsidering when I watched the previews for the upcoming Sherlock Gnomes.  Since this new movie is a sequel, I decided to go back and give the original a chance, and I’m glad I did.

As you’d expect from the title, this animated movie retells the story of Romeo and Juliet with garden gnomes.  You can see why I was skeptical, right?  The gnomes live in neighboring gardens, one belonging to Mr. Capulet and the other to Miss Montague.  For our ease, they are also color coordinated, the gnomes in one garden are all red, the other all blue.

While no one quite remembers what started the feud, both these neighbors and their gnomes hate each other.  One night, Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) disguises himself to wreak havoc on the other garden.  That same night, Juliet (Emily Blunt) disguises herself and slips into an abandoned garden to take an orchid.  The two meet by accident, and it is love at first sight – that is until they learn who the other really is.  But their attraction is too much to ignore.  What will they do about it?

The source material is one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies, but given the fact that this is an animated movie about garden gnomes, I’m sure it is no surprise to say they’ve turned it into a comedy.  Believe it or not, it works.  I laughed multiple times at what was happening, although I think I laughed more at the Easter eggs hidden throughout the film.  There are nods to not only this play but several other Shakespeare plays scattered throughout the film.  Most are blink and you miss them, and a few might have gone over my head since there is much of Shakespeare I’m not familiar with.  The film does acknowledge the original ending, but it does it with a wink and a nod in a very funny scene.

Since the movie cuts the story down to an hour and a half, the pace is fast.  Kids won’t be bored since there is plenty of action to keep them entertained.  That includes a climax that is very different from the play in every conceivably way.

About the only real weakness are the characters.  Even the main characters are a bit flat, and most of them are just there to move the story forward.  This will bother adults more than the child target audience.  And this isn’t the fault of the voice actors, who are all great.  It’s the fault of a screenplay that focuses on action.

I wasn’t aware that this film was released by Touchstone, a division of Disney.  Or, if I knew at one time, I’d forgotten about it.  I only mention this because of a great gag that makes much more sense when you know this.  Of course, you can also figure it out by watching the previews for Disney movies on the disc before the movie actually starts.

Honestly, my complaint about the characters is a very minor complaint, and I’m glad I gave the film a chance.  Gnomeo and Juliet is a light, fun movie that sets out to entertain and does it well.

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