So let me get this straight; Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, presented by garden gnomes? With Elton John tunes? I think my teenage daughter said it best in referring to whichever think tank came up with this idea with a “what, were they drunk?”
I’ll give Gnomeo & Juliet this much, it is cute. Kinda creepy too. But then, personally, I’ve always found garden gnomes a wee bit creepy.
The set-up goes something like this. Separated by a wooden fence in the English suburbs, two warring clans of magical lawn ornaments — it says Montague and Capulet on the respective mailbox of each home, one side decorating their backyard in characters adorned in blue, the other red — provides the unlikely setting for romance. Blue hero Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) and team Red’s stone maiden Juliet (Emily Blunt) find love amidst a vicious feud. We’ve seen the story again and again and again and again and again. And again. Certainly enough to know that this is awfully unusual material for a children’s movie.
And, if memory of the Bard’s work serves me well, this has traditionally been a rather depressing story, especially that end part when both lovers, um … well … die. Not to give away any spoilers, but simply to reassure parents of little ones, Gnomeo & Juliet does not drop the curtain on two crushed ornaments.
But Thybalt, voiced — or rather, menacingly whispered — by tough guy Jason Statham, does have an unfortunate meeting with a brick wall, leaving the story’s antagonist in pieces.
An eclectic mix of stars lend their vocal talents to Gnomeo & Juliet, including Michael Caine, Patrick Stewart (who provides the pipes of a statue of Shakespeare himself, one of the film’s few clever bits), Ozzy Osbourne (whaaa?) and Hulk Hogan (double whaaaa?). And then, there’s the Elton John score. Yeah, I don’t get it either. And please tell me those weren’t Brokeback Mountain and American Beauty references. Eeeps.
I guess it’s a cuddly way to introduce kids to Shakespeare. But then what? Troll dolls do Hamlet?
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give Gnomeo & Juliet a two. The feature is currently playing at the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.