Gnomeo & Juliet
Oh good, Granny found a place to stick these reels of film.

Theatrical Release Date: 02/11/2011
Director: Kelly Asbury
Featuring the Voices of: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Ashley Jensen, Michael Caine, Matt Lucas, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith, Ozzy Osbourne, Stephen Merchant, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, Hulk Hogan, Dolly Parton
Rated: G
Runtime: 1 hour, 24 minutes


Apparently, the flower worked as intended, Gnomeo.

Gnomeo, Gnomeo, why the hell are you? Let’s trace the lineage:

First, this fairly obscure author going by the name of William Shakespeare wrote “Romeo & Juliet”. As most middle school students can tell you, it’s the tale of star-crossed lovers whose families hate each other. Their love is eternal but doomed, not quite the story normally delivered to little kids via cute animation.

A few years later (sometime around the turn of the latest millennium so I’m being somewhat facetious), two other writers (John R. Smith & Rob Sprackling) began shopping around an adaptation of Shakespeare’s work via Rocket Pictures (a company started by Sir Elton John) but were unable to get it optioned.

A few years after that, some more persuading was done and Disney Studios agreed to go ahead with the project via their subsidiary, Touchstone Pictures. Director Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron) was brought on to helm the project and contributed to the script. Then SIX MORE WRITERS got their grubby keyboard fingers on the screenplay and the result, “Gnomeo & Juliet”, is now hitting theaters nationwide (in not so glorious 3D).

The basic framework of Shakespeare’s play is still there: One set of gnomes is caught in a blood feud with another. Gnomeo and Juliet know that their families would disapprove of their relationship but as we all know, love is like a can of Pringles: Once you start, you can’t stop.

Along the way, a number of well known lines from a variety of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as other dated pop culture references, are given some hokey twist. But they rarely feel clever at all, even when we’re given a perspective from a statue of Big Willy himself via the dulcet tones of Patrick Stewart. Adding to the desire to roll my eyes, Elton John’s role as the executive producer via his film company makes it no surprise that the soundtrack is almost exclusively from his song catalog and there are numerous visual references to the man himself. Make no mistake however, it’s more like a cheap attempt to produce royalties than an earnest attempt to create synergy between song and story.

On the bright side, the voicework is actually handled quite well – with a litany of well known celebrities lending their efforts (James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Ozzy Osbourne, Stephen Merchant and Hulk Hogan to name a few). However, the underlying problems of an overworked script cannot be solved by comforting voices and although the screening audience seemed to enjoy every trite sound byte, I took the constant chattering and fidgeting of the children around me to be a bad sign for the true demographic.

Then of course, there’s my own opinion: that this isn’t worth a matinee ticket price and most parents would be better off sitting their kids in front of the TV and popping in a DVD they’ve watched dozens of times before. Even the lure of 3D is rendered useless by an ineffective attempt to create a sense of depth. I appreciate that they didn’t resort to the notion of flinging items at us for the sake of doing so but that’s sort of like saying I appreciate that my waiter didn’t spit in my lukewarm bowl of clam chowder.

A 2 out of 5, “Gnomeo & Juliet” may have good DNA to build from but the constant altering of its genetic makeup led to a deformed film that will be easy to forget, no matter how lackluster the 2011 filmscape is shaping up to be so far.

2 out of 53D No