Film Review: Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

The greatest love story you have ever gnome.

History repeats itself: first as tragedy, second as farce, or so some clever heads have proverbially asserted through the ages. Gnomeo & Juliet is a computer-animated retelling of Shakespeare’s eminent, star-crossed tale of woe, Romeo and Juliet. But, as the punny tagline suggests, the woe has been swapped out with whee and whoa and whoop-whoop, with lighthearted fun. This is a version of Romeo and Juliet which gets a happily ever after.

A British-American fantasy rom-com, Gnomeo & Juliet boasts a stellar vocal cast, including: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Julie Walters, Stephen Merchant, Ozzy Osbourne, Dolly Parton, Hulk Hogan and even Patrick Stewart is in there.

The film’s soundtrack is essentially a “Best of” collection of Elton John’s music. So, if you enjoy bopping to the Rocket Man’s hits and can’t help but sing-a-long to such ditties as “Crocodile Rock,” “Your Song,” “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” among others, well, this is the film for you. Sir Elton’s original duet with Lady Gaga, “Hello Hello,” was nominated for multiple awards, including a Golden Globe, and is a lovely addition to the Elton John music canon.

Feuding Neighbors on Verona Avenue

Mrs. Montague and Mr. Capulet are next-door neighbors, who share a fence, a townhouse wall, a love of gardening and garden gnomes, and a longstanding acrimonious relationship. We never do learn the backstory to this feud. But Mrs. Montague decorates in blues, Mr. Capulet in reds, and never the twain shall apparently meet. Their respective garden ornaments – mostly gnomes – sport hats in blue and red, respectively. So, the lines are very distinctively drawn. And – like their human owners – the gnomes all foster animosity for the other color on the other side of the fence.

Lady Blueberry is the matriarch of the Montague gnomes – the blues – while Lord Redbrick leads the Capulet reds. The widowed Lady Blueberry has a dashing and daring son, Gnomeo, the treasure of her heart. The widowed Lord Redbrick has his lovely, impetuous daughter, Juliet, the apple of his eye. You know where this going.

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Mostly, the reds and the blues keep to their respective yards, meeting up in the back alley for lawnmower drag-racing. But after a particularly heated drag-race between Gnomeo and Tybalt, during which the Montague lawnmower is destroyed, the blues need to save face and enact revenge for slights (both real and perceived). Tempers flare. Hijinks and escapades ensue. Midnight raids and vandalism across the fence increase. And for some of the terracotta gnomes, there are life-smashing consequences to this crescendoing violence of comeuppance.

Love Across the Fence

In the midst of all this feuding, the blue-hatted Gnomeo meets the red-hatted Juliet. It is love at first sight. But can a blue love a red and vice versa? Is there any hope and future for such a union? According to the William Shakespeare statue in the park that Gnomeo ends up in, no, it can only end in tragedy. But Gnomeo wants another ending, one where gnomes and humans alike can lay down their gripes and just stop the rancor, just let it all go. Does he get his happy ending after all? Well, I’ve already let slip that he does, but you’ll have to see the movie to see just how he gets there.

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Gnomeo & Juliet is surprisingly true to the feel of its source material – despite the aberrant ending. True, it is very much a watered-down version of Romeo and Juliet, but not so water-downed that it doesn’t keep its edgy intensity. It still explores the themes of revenge and honor and justice and violence, of how loving families can hate other loving families. Yes, the great question of how good people end up caught up in hate and anger and doing some very bad things is, unfortunately, as actual today as it was in Shakespeare’s time, as it has been since time immemorial.

So, cut the teeth of your young’uns on life’s big questions and turmoils in this water-downed, animated adaptation of a dramatic literary classic. And shake some booty to “Bennie and the Jets” while you’re at it.

The sequel, Sherlock Gnomes, is set to hit theaters here in March 2018.

Content Note: Rated G, but should probably be PG. There are some very mild sexual innuendos – this is Shakespeare, after all – and there is a lot of violence, over-the-top violence, but violence nonetheless, including a couple of intense smashing deaths of pottery gnomes.

Where to Watch: DVD, Netflix.


Photo Credit: Touchstone/Rocket Pictures.

OVERALL RATING

three and a half corset rating

“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful

friendship.”

ROMANCE RATING

three heart rating

“Happiness in marriage is entirely a

matter of chance.”

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