‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ Brings Childish Joy For Few

Right off the bat, I am going to say that I will be surprised with how much I have to say about this movie by the time I reach the end of this review.  For whatever reason, Disney has not only decided to produce an animated comedy about lawn gnomes (which is not a bad idea), but has for some reason decided to base it on the plot of one of the most famous romantic tragedies of all time and release it during Valentine’s Day weekend.  I dare you to guess how far the studio wanted to take these characters by the time it got to the end.

Lord Redbrick:  Red gnomes and blue gnomes have been enemies forever!

James McAvoy and Emily Blunt stars as the voices for Gnomeo and Juliet.  Both live in opposite back yards of two people who hate each other.  Those people of course have the last names of Ms. Montegue and Mr. Capulet, and they live on Verona drive.  Gnomeo and Juliet meet one starry night, in disguise, instantly become smitten for one another, but soon realize that they are from different sides of the fence.  The romantic adventure goes on from there!

This film also features a talented English voice cast, which includes Michael Caine as Lord Redbrick, Jason Statham as Tybalt (yes!), Maggie Smith as Lady Blueberry, Ashely Jensen as Nanette, Matt Lucas as Benny, Stephen Merchant as Paris, along with Ozzy Osbourne, Patrick Stewart, Julie Walters, and Hulk Hogan in small roles.  Strangely, this is not the weirdest cast list I have seen, but it is close.

Additionally, in an attempt to keep this film hip for the kids, Elton John (who also served as a producer, and if I had to guess, a creative consultant) provides the film with most of its music, and even has the score lift the rhythms from many of his classic hits.  This certainly does help provide some bounce for the film and gets us the chance to see gnomes wearing crazy sunglasses!

What hurts this film the most, are its attempts at using pop-culture references (Using such timely hits as The Matrix, American Beauty, and Forrest Gump among others) to fuel much of its humor from scene to scene.  Somehow, seven credited writers worked on the script for this film, and as much as it has to have good intentions, as this is a G-rated, animated film about gnomes, its attempts to bridge the gap between shiny colors and obscure talking things for kids and witty remarks and sight gags for adults is just not handled that well.  It was much easier to laugh at the absurdity of the whole thing than it was at the film’s legitimate attempts at humor.

Beyond a handful of admittedly funny moments (they are sparse, but true), the film does benefit from solid animation and sound design.  The gnomes have a hand crafted feel that makes these characters all feel unique and carefully put together…before they are broken apart.  And all the little sounds clay gnomes would make when interacting with environments and other characters perfectly suit them and feel quite familiar.

Not much else to say here, but I’ve gotten this far, so I will point out the moment this film decides to feel truly more smug than it should, and that is when Gnomeo interacts with a statue of Shakespeare and tells him that his version of this story is rubbish and boos his terrible ending.  Yep, this movie has the chutzpah to make fun of the writings of William Shakespeare, and I’m sure it will be taking that and a handful of money (thanks to its 3D treatment) all the way to the bank.

Yes, this movie is for kids, but you know what?  So is Toy Story 3 and a great deal of other animated features (including The Illusionist), which are better written, better made, and truly suitable for everyone.  I think there is a good and humorous movie that could have come from one about animated lawn gnomes, but this one was not it.

Juliet:  Gnomeo, oh Gnomeo, where are you?…


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

7 Responses to “‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ Brings Childish Joy For Few”

  1. Gregg

    Though my flair for animated films has greatly decreased over time, I was looking forward to this one. What a bummer.

    On a separate note, was it really Shakespeare that wrote all that or was it Sir Francis Bacon (Lord Verulam)? William Shakespeare couldn’t even sign his own name.

  2. Ken Cortez

    The way the movies was advertised on television, I wouldn’t have guessed that it had all of those elements.

  3. Gerard Iribe

    I have no interest in this.

  4. Brian White

    I agree with Aaron. The subject of lawn gnomes is a strange, but IMO I think good one. Disappointed to hear it was pulled off effectively 🙁

  5. Jiminy Critic

    Took my 4 yr. old to see this one, and he was amused quite a few times… The many kids in the audience seemed to have a good time, but where I agree with Aaron is that this movie doesn’t appeal to both the kids and adults… 10 yrs. old and down for this one…

  6. tony

    please don’t attribute this trainwreck to disney. the movie was pitched to disney and they were going to make it, but after lasseter took over they dropped it. this was put out by touchstone. i’d hate for people tho connect this to disney or even worse, pixar.

  7. Aaron Neuwirth

    Point is acknowledged, but if we want to use some facts pulled from Wikepedia, I’ll counter with this:

    Touchstone Pictures is merely a label and does not exist as a separate company: the two companies behind it are the Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group and Walt Disney Pictures and Television.