Gnomeo & Juliet (2011) FILM REVIEW
Written by Jambareeqi
Posted 8th May, 2018
With “Sherlock Gnomes” coming out in UK Theatres this week, I thought I’d check out it’s predecessor, and see if it deserved a sequel this year. “Gnomeo & Juliet” is set in two warring gardens, one red and one blue, who hold grudges against each other due to their owners’ bitter relationship. This rivalry becomes challenged one day though, when blue gnome Gnomeo and red gnome Juliet fall madly in love, and start a secret affair.
The Strength of this film, to me anyway, is it’s central romance between the title characters, and the chemistry they have together. These two are pretty adorable together, often sharing witty banter and coming close to kissing, it’s sweet innocent fluff that’ll charm the pants off audiences who like cutesy love stories. There’s also something lovely about them finding a abandoned garden to have their dates in, it’s excitingly secretive. Although, it is a little weird seeing two characters clearly designed to look like adults, acting like the teenagers from the original play, but I guess love brings out a more youthful side to some grown ups.
It’s a shame that most other things about this movie let it down though, because the romance was enough to make the film work. The supporting characters are the biggest hindrance to this movie’s appeal, many being a pain in the ass, constantly trying way too hard to be funny with incessant driveling dialogue. Only one endeared me, a plastic flamingo called Featherstone, but that’s because he’s given a sympathetic reason for his over-bearing personality, is the only character who supports the romance, and is voiced by an endearing Jim Cummings. Oh and Shroom the mushroom made for a cute silent comic relief, but his personality was often drowned out by all the louder characters. Everyone else? I wanted them to be crushed by lawnmowers, just to make the film quieter, as harsh as that sounds.
The Story is exactly what you’d expect from the premise, a Disney-esque version of Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet”, but with garden ornaments. It doesn’t really do much with the source material, except replace certain elements with backyard decorations, and lighten up the tone. I didn’t expect much from the concept though, so I can’t say I was let down, but this does explain why this movie didn’t wow critics. Heck, if you’ve seen Aladdin and Toy Story, then bam! You don’t need to see this movie, because it’s pretty much those movies mushed together.
The comedy is so painful to watch, it managed to get 1 or 2 chuckles out of me, but for the most part, I was wincing with my head resting on my palm in embarrassed agony. I’m sure very small children will laugh at all these obnoxious frantic gags, and all power to them, but many parents and older siblings are left with very little to laugh at. Great family comedies tickle all age ranges, but this one is clearly pandering to the youngest demographic, and this will stop the film from being timeless.
The movie employs a wide cast of British acting talent for the voice cast, including Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Julie Walters, Jason Statham, Richard Wilson, James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, and Patrick Stewart. While our leads are greatly utilized, demonstrating some witty chemistry together, the others feel very under-used, but that’s because most of these English thespians are being cast as flat cliche characters sidelining the romance.
What’s odd though, is the inclusion of some notable celebrity voices, like Hulk Hogan, Ozzy Osbourne, and Dolly Parton… erm, okay movie? Haha! Don’t me wrong, each of these celebs fit their animated roles perfectly (with Hogan even providing the biggest laughs in the movie), but it’s just strange casting, the kind that may make grown ups scratch their heads, and wonder why they were cast in this particular movie; ESPECIALLY Osbourne. It’s not a complaint, just a bizarre quirk to the film, but I guess the movie needs a bit of eccentricity, considering it’s lack of uniqueness.
“Gnomeo & Juliet” does look kind of pretty though, doing a nice job creating plastic or china textures for characters, rendering beautiful garden backdrops, and using the red/blue motif to colourful effect. I particularly liked the secret garden that Gnomeo & Juliet elope in, it doesn’t look as gorgeous as the other backyards, but it has this mysterious atmospheric whimsy to it, that affectionately reminded me of my grandparents’ old homes.
Lastly, this movie was actually executive produced by Elton John, who also adds his own original songs to the soundtrack, and they’re okay to listen to, but nothing special. They play their parts in the story, while capturing the British-centricity of the setting, it’s just that I don’t think I even remember any of them while writing this review, and I think Elton has composed far more memorable songs for other animated movies.
To Conclude “Gnomeo & Juliet” is what it is, a cutesy fluffy version of the bard’s romantic tragedy, but it’s not really anything more than that, and I guess this is why the public are baffled why it’s warranted a sequel. Sure, it’s a nice “My First Shakespeare” for young audiences, but I do think children deserve something less pandering, and maybe “Romeo & Juliet” isn’t the best inspiration for a whimsical kids’ movie; especially one this reluctant to get dark. If the premise sounds good to you, then check it out, because it gives you exactly what’s on the tin, but I personally don’t think people are missing much.
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