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Toon Talk: Gnomeo and Juliet
Page 1 of 2

by Kirby Holt (archives)
February 15, 2011
Kirby reviews Disney's release (through their Touchstone label) of a Starz Animation studio production - Gnomeo and Juliet.
Toon Talk: Disney Film and DVD Reviews
by Kirby C. Holt
 
 

GNOMEO & JULIET

Touchstone Pictures
MPAA Rating: G

Brush Up Your Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy “Romeo and Juliet” practically invented the concept of “star-crossed lovers”, so it’s no wonder that the Bard’s most familiar romance continues to inspire storytellers to this day. Speaking specifically cinematically, “Romeo and Juliet” has been the basis of many films, from the sublime (West Side Story) to the ridiculous (China Girl), not to mention direct adaptations by the directorial likes of George Cukor, Franco Zeffirelli and Baz Luhrmann.

The doomed lovers’ influence has even carried over into the animated world, most notably with Disney’s own Pocahontas. Their latest toon incarnation is Gnomeo & Juliet (in theaters now, in both 2-D and 3-D versions), where they are embodied by (you guessed it) garden gnomes.

The more culturally snobbish may look down their noses at such a “blasphemous” idea, but Gnomeo & Juliet is actually a charming little fairy tale perfect for children and, smartly, the script is laced with many sly nods to the Shakespearean canon (referencing everything from “Out, damned spot!” to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) to keep their parents entertained as well during its quick running time.

The story unfolds in the adjoining backyards of a Mr. Capulet (voiced by Richard Wilson) and a Miss Montague (Julie Walters) where the plaster pixies carry on their owners’ feud, bursting to life in Toy Story fashion when the humans aren’t looking. It’s the “Reds” versus the “Blues” (based on the gnomes’ color-coded costumes) and fraternizing with the enemy is strictly forbidden by the clans’ respective leaders, Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine) and Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith).

Hewing closely at first to the plot of “Romeo and Juliet”, the Blues’ favorite son Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and the Reds’ pampered-against-her-will Juliet (Emily Blunt) meet unexpectedly and the proverbial sparks fly. This of course puts their budding romance on a collision course with tragedy once their families find out, albeit a fate not quite so tragic as in the original story (this is a kid’s flick, after all).

If this seems all “been there, done that”, the filmmakers are well aware of that; they even address the fact that this has all been seen “many… many times” before in an amusing prologue. To compensate for the over-familiarity, director Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) keeps the action at a brisk pace, and expertly (and wisely) recruited a (mostly) British cast that rivals a Harry Potter movie.

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