Gnomeo and Juliet Directed by: Kelly Asbury Cast: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Julie Walters, Jason Statham, Stephen Merchant, Patrick Stewart, Ozzy Osbourne Running Time: 1 hr 26 mins Rating: G Release Date: February 11, 2011
PLOT: Gnomeo (McAvoy) can't be with Juliet (Blunt) because their color-coded families hate each other. Based on the famous play by William Shakespeare, as portrayed by lawn ornaments (in 3D).
WHO'S IT FOR? The world’s most romantic bummer of a story is being passed down to an even younger demographic, but with a different kind of misery intact. While the kids don't earn nor learn anything from this movie, parents will have to suffice with playing “I Spy” with the film’s abundant (albeit brief) visual references to Shakespeare. And for you older kids, don’t you even dare think about using this as an alternative to wrapping your head around the actual text. Mostly, this one’s for the small audience of gnome-owners, even though those folk probably already have all of the companionship and entertainment they could want in their backyard. Watching gnomes come to life and obliterate a garden might actually be pretty traumatic sight for the movie's most accessible audience.
EXPECTATIONS: Venturing into a 3D animated kids movie featuring a bunch of gnomes, one’s brain is only left to ponder: “What tune will all of the gnomes groove to right before the end credits?”
James McAvoy as Gnomeo: I don't get it - does he have blonde hair hiding under his cap, or is the rest of the hair on his head white, just like his beard? Gnomeo is a very standard guy. He can be clumsy or heroic, whichever is needed. He can never be a lot of fun, regardless of his lawnmower riding skills. Score: 2
Emily Blunt as Juliet: Blunt sounds a tad bored with this performance, which doesn't help in bringing an already unsurprising character to life. And for some reason, Juliet is a ninja? That joke doesn't work - in fact, it seems in really poor taste. Score: 2
Rest of the cast: Jason Statham should do more voiceover work - as Tybalt, he hasn't sounded this snarly probably since he flipped off a camera in Crank: High Voltage. A lot of other appearances, including those of Maggie Smith and Michael Caine, are small and insignificant. Ozzy Osbourne gets stuck voicing a fawn, while Patrick Stewart voices Shakespeare himself. Why did Stephen Merchant have to be in this movie? Score: 2
TALKING: Golly, those gnomes sure do have a knack for some punny "gnome"nclature. Obligated by its shameful title, the movie dives headfirst into a bin of every cheap pun and zinger it can carry, and hurls them back at the audience with no regret. Gnomeo thinks “What’s in a gnome?” is cunning stuff, along with desperate crap like “Who’s your gnomey,” a decaying one-liner that hardly resembles it’s phrase of weak pun origin. The onslaught of gnome puns is consistent right up until the very end, in which the word "matrignomey" is snuck in for the last "laugh" as the gnomes ride off into a harmonious sunset (spoiler alert). Score: 2
SIGHTS: Quite obviously the most labored component of the entirety of Gnomeo and Juliet is its animation, which is bound to be overlooked when the entire package reveals itself as pretty terrible. Paying for the 3D is unnecessary, although the picture quality is not as dim as other similarly formatted films. While there is some dedicated, detail-oriented animation at work here, it's not worth the extra money. Score: 5
SOUNDS: Elton John shuffles through his greatest hits CD (the first volume, mind you) and allows Gnomeo and Juliet to utilize songs like "Tiny Dancer," "Rocket Man," "Benny and the Jets," and "Your Song" however the film sees fit. These tunes are sometimes heard almost to their fullest, or are used as recurring motifs. Either way, the adamant referencing of extremely familiar Elton John songs to a movie about gnomes is unmistakably pointless. Were it to be strictly the new song, "Hello, Hello" with Lady Gaga, then Elton John's full-on involvement with this garbage would be slightly more excusable. Here, Gnomeo and Juliet is just trying to save on a score (although James Newton Howard does get a credit for ... arranging?) Score: 2
BEST SCENE: I was one of two people in the entire theater laughing during this particular moment, one that truly expanded my and answered any curiosities I may have had of gnome mortality. My gut busted as a gnome broke.
ENDING: Imagine what Shakespeare would think of gnomes trying to kill each other with a massive lawnmower, ultimately reaching a happily ever after ending?
QUESTIONS: Do gnome-makers ever craft curvy Dolly Parton-like gnomes? Did Statue Shakespeare just try to kill Gnomeo?
REWATCHABILITY: I’d much rather watch the Zefferlli version again, which I only have drowsy memories of from English class. But at least that version had nudity, something not even the stylish Baz Luhrmann could get away with!
What originally took only one man to create, took seven writers to destroy (and add garden gnomes). Gnomeo and Juliet is not a tragedy in the sense of its story. It is a shameful moment for Hollywood, as it is a full-length, star-studded animated feature that exists simply to fulfill a cheap pun. If only Shakespeare had titled his story of star-crossed lovers “Justin Bieber and Juliet,” none of this would have happened.
Cast with a consistently surprising bunch of actors pulled out of an English thespian grab-bag, some with serious experience in revering Shakespeare, Gnomeo and Juliet is an aggressively lazy movie that resorts to half-thought-out pop culture references and an assortment of egregious puns to suffice for humor. Though it’s 2011, we’re still getting Pussycat Dolls jokes, and a very weak, subtle dig at Brokeback Mountain. The sense of humor can be adamantly tiny at times, literally. The movie dares its audience to be unamused by its cutesy trinket-sized characters, in the shapes of bunnies or really short gnomes, both with very small voice boxes.
Gnomeo and Juliet takes a classic story, one that seems to be most romanticized by wannabe Romeos and Juliets in high school, and waters it down completely. Even a G-rated movie can create emotional tension and provide characters that have more to them than their hollow appearance (just ask Pixar god John Lasseter, who turned down this dumpy project years ago). The film relies on its animation quality to maintain a few shreds of worth, which are best put to use during lawnmower racing scenes, a la that scene in Rebel Without A Cause. Everything else from this story that once ended in a double suicide has become animal crackers. The emotions at playtime here do not make the movie a gloomy story. Its phony sense of enchantment does.
The ending to Gnomeo and Juliet is wrong. Not because it doesn’t align with Shakespeare’s original conclusion, but because not enough gnomes are dead before Elton John’s cannibalistic new rendition of “Crocodile Rock” hearkens the joyless yet inevitable dance sequence. Especially with the all-out battle that takes place in the third act, resulting in a massive explosion, one would think that all gnomes would be completely obliterated. And why shouldn’t they be? A movie like Gnomeo and Juliet does not support the “enchanting” cause of the garden gnome. Instead it recommends that we should locate, smash, and then cremate all of them. Just as these possessed statues have eradicated their homes, so shall we to them. Such an act would at least spare us the next punny sequel, which would likely be an adaptation of Noam Chomsky.
FINAL SCORE: 2/10