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Gnomeo & Juliet

A movie directed by Kelly Asbury

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It Isn't Always Shakespeare, but It's Genuine

  • Feb 17, 2011
Star Rating:

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything when I say that the ending of Gnomeo & Juliet is not the same as that of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Come on now, do you honestly believe that children could tolerate the title characters killing themselves? Could they, for that matter, tolerate any aspect of the original play? For them – and, indeed, for many adults – Shakespeare is completely outside their range of comprehension; his plotting is far too intricate, his characters are multifaceted and non-archetypal, and his poetic dialogue is so foreign that it might as well be the language of an alien species. With this in mind, one could successfully argue that Romeo and Juliet is inappropriate material for a 3D animated comedy. Of course, one could also successfully argue that Gnomeo & Juliet is an adaptation, not a literal translation, and as such, it should be enjoyed for what it is.

And enjoy it I did. This movie is exuberant family entertainment – charming, clever, colorful, and brimming with energy. It’s also the funniest animated film since Megamind, in large part because it’s keenly aware of its source material. There’s a moment late in the film, for example, when the heroic Gnomeo, lost in a British public park, has a conversation with the statue of William Shakespeare. As the bronze figure listens, he begins comparing Gnomeo’s situation to one of his plays; he then goes on to explain how his version of the story ended, and he does so with remarkable good humor. What made this scene even funnier was that the statue was voiced by Patrick Stewart, arguably one of our best living Shakespearean actors.


The foundation of the plot remains the same: A feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. This time, however, it takes place in a British suburb, where a duplex is separated by the colors red and blue – and by elderly homeowners who throw insults at each other at every available opportunity. They’re competitive over their yards, which are both populated by an obscene number of garden gnomes. As in the Toy Story films, they’re inanimate objects that magically come to life when humans aren’t present. They, too, are feuding with one another, although it’s not for any particular reason. One day, when climbing the roof of an abandoned greenhouse, the blue-hooded Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) crosses paths with the red-hooded Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt), and a forbidden love blooms.
That’s about as much of the plot as we’re made to notice. The rest hinges on side characters, set pieces, and inside jokes, all funny and placed with love and care. We have the primary antagonist, Tybalt, who, just like in Shakespeare’s play, is a key figure in a duel to the death – which, this time around, involves a race on a lawnmower. He’s voiced by Jason Statham, who proves that he is in fact capable of something other than mindless action films. Mercutio is reinterpreted as Gnomeo’s best friend, Benny (voiced by Matt Lucas), whose pointy hat is quite disproportionate to his small body. We also have Gnomeo and Juliet’s respective parents, Lady Blueberry and Lord Redbrick (voiced by Maggie Smith and Michael Caine), and a garden frog named Nanette (voiced by Ashley Jensen), Juliet’s best friend.


Take the time to notice the smaller details, like a moving company owned by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (wrong play, right author), or an electronic garden display that, when switched on, begins playing the title song from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. A prominent stylistic touch is a soundtrack featuring songs by Elton John, who doubles as the film’s executive producer; there are times when his themes are interwoven into the orchestral score, composed by James Newton Howard and Chris Bacon. And pay special attention to what is probably the funniest commercial for a lawnmower you’re likely to see. I haven’t laughed so hard at a fantasy sequence since Horton Hears a Who!, when the title character imagined he was the star of a Japanese cartoon series.
This movie is, quite simply, a whole lot of fun. Somewhere out there, I’m sure, are people who would gladly nitpick this film within an inch of its life – English majors and Shakespearean-trained actors, no doubt. No, this movie is not faithful to its source. Nowhere does it say that it had to be. I enjoyed it not as an adaptation of an English play, but as an animated comedy. If there is anything worth criticizing, it’s that Gnomeo & Juliet is the latest in a long line of films to overhype the 3D process. I will not say that the images completely fail to jump off the screen and envelope the audience; I will say, however, that they contribute nothing to the story. It’s just a gimmick, and a pricy one at that. 3D may someday become so widespread that it will actually drive ticket prices down. Or maybe it will simply fade away. Whichever comes first.


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June 03, 2011
I want to see this one. It looks super cute. Loved the review, Chris!
February 18, 2011
Truthfully, I was on the fence on this one. Your review just convinced me to give it a chance. Not sure, if I'll be able to see it this weekend, but I will give it a shot; I do like Shakespearean themes and a comedic "gnomish' rendition of that famed story shouldn't be so bad. Excellent review.
May 28, 2011
I just rented this one. I wanted to re-read your review before I see it. Thanks again!
May 28, 2011
You're welcome. I hope you enjoy it.
More Gnomeo & Juliet reviews
review by . March 16, 2011
one mild spoiler      I do understand the reason some critics may not have liked this, but I absolutely adored it. The first really good movie I saw in 2011 and one of the better animated films I have seen in a while, especially in the fact that it isn't from any of the three major animation companies. Gnomeo and Juliet may be a little too self-referential at times, but most of the time it doesn't go too over-the-top and I actually found it quite funny. It also gave the …
review by . February 19, 2011
'Gnomeo & Juliet' 'Two Jews On Film' Find Their Inner Gnome
Can two young teenagers find love despite their warring families? Well, we all know how Romeo and Juliet ended up. However in the 3D version of 'Gnomeo & Juliet' directed by Kelly Asbury, things don't turn out quite as tragic for our lovers. 'Gnomeo & Juliet' takes place in contemporary Stratford-onAvon, Shakespeare's birthplace. Miss Montague (voice of Julie Walters) and Mr. Capulet (voice of Richard Wilson) are neighbours and they absolutely hate each other. Their …
review by . March 11, 2011
To 3D or not 3D, that is the question. Okay, not really but you get the joke. Much like that weak pun, Gnomeo & Juliet has its moments to shine, before falling to pieces. The cute kid friendly take on Romeo and Juliet does a decent job introducing the classic play to children, but falls flat with many of its jokes. Unlike Shrek, Gnomeo (which is a Disney film) appears to forget what it's trying to achieve mid-way through the film. One of the reasons why so many love the original Shrek is …
review by . June 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
you see this face...its a happy gnome face!
So i won the coin toss on base and got to pick the movie for friday night, so i made a room full of marines watch Gnomeo and Juliet. After all the grumbling and groaning we sat down and not 15 mins into it there wasnt a person in the room who hadnt laughed at least once. This is the animated reworking of Shakespeares tale of Romeo and Juliet. There is a garden battle raging between the reds and the blues, compleate with lawn mower racing and plots of attack on eachothers plants. Amidst all the crazyness …
review by . April 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
  Gnomeo and Juliet, as expected, is basically just a remake of the old famous shakespeare play "Romeo and Juliet". Though as seen by the title, this film stars Garden Gnomes, instead of people. Most everyone in the world probably knows this story, but I have to explain it anyway. The Capulets and Montagues are neighbors that hate each other, but live side by side. Their many garden gnomes in the backyard come alive when the humans are not around, and well they hate each other too. …
Quick Tip by . March 07, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Anyone who's ever seen a Pixar or Dreamworks animation film will know right of the bat that Gnomeo & Juliet is not the same caliber as either Toy Story or Shrek... not even close.   The film is essentially a very loosely re-imagined version of Shakespeare's classic tragic romance. However, this film falls a bit short on the Shakespeare (don't expect iambic pentameter), the classical nature of poetry and plays (there are a few cute references to other classic plays but that's …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


Gnomeo and Juliet is an American-British upcoming CGI animated film based on William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.
The film is the original idea of Rob Sprackling and John Smith who sold the spec script to Disney through Rocket Pictures. Initially, the film was going to be produced by Disney Feature Animation, but was shut down by its new chief, John Lasseter, after the Pixar acquisition. Miramax Films picked up the project and guided its production until the division closed down. The film will now be released under the Touchstone Pictures banner on February 11, 2011.
The film will be distributed internationally by E1 Entertainment, and the film will be released in 3D. The film's soundtrack will be provided by Elton John[1] and James Newton Howard. John also presented 10 minutes of the film at the Cannes Film Festival. The film's script was written by Rob Sprackling and John R. Smith, with revisions by Kevin Cecil, Andy Riley and Mark Burton. The film will be directed by Kelly Asbury.
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Director: Kelly Asbury
Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Romance
Release Date: 11 February 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Screen Writer: Kelly Asbury, Mark Burton
Studio: Dreamworks Animation
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