Gnomeo & Juliet (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

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Andrew DISLIKEThere's a long running joke on our podcast that Ingmar Bergman's art-house cinema classic The Seventh Seal should be remade with actual seals.  Now that I have seen Gnomeo & Juliet I think that it's safe to say that we might be able to secure funding for such a project.  G&J is film-making to the lowest possible denominator with the only selling point its association with the immortal play upon which it's based.  Few films have done such a complete and brutal disservice to the Bard, but here G&J is just the same.

Shakespeare's works are so durable they can be remade in any number of fashions.  I've seen Shakespeare done with ninjas (Kenneth Branagh's As You Like It) and transporting Richard III into an appropriately dritty post-WWII backdrop (Richard Loncraine's version).  Adapting one of the greatest tragic love stories of all time into a 3D animated feature utilizing garden gnomes reeks of two different levels of disappointment.  The first, that we are so desperate for "original" ideas that high-concept garbage gets repackaged into supposedly cute features.  The second that we have become so cynical as a society that this sort of tripe can be fed to us and it will gross nearly 190 million dollars.

Rambo reference. Because why not?

Is it worth it to recap the plot of Romeo and Juliet?  Not in relation to this film, and if you don't know the story please close this browser and pick up a copy of the play.  Or if you're really desperate, go watch Baz Lurhmann's wildly energetic take on the play.  With this rendition we have Juliet (Emily Blunt) as a Red and Gnomeo (James McAvoy) as a Blue.  Their colors are perpetually at war, blissfully unaware that if they mix their colors the infinitely more seductive purple is created (all credit to red - but purple suggests more, red reveals it).

All of this is done in an animation style borrowed directly from Dreamworks.  Come to think if it, most of the execution is utilized from their playbook.  It doesn't take more than ten minutes for a well-known pop song to be utilized to underline the emotions on-screen in a terribly blunt manner.  Then there's the matter of the consistent smugness that every single one of the character adaptations uses the entire film.  There's no one to root for, save a particularly plucky ceramic mushroom who serves as Gnomeo's silent companion.

It's all I can do to not place heaps of shame on my brain and body for renting this.  I'm now implicated in the same mass hallucination the film studios cast on hapless audiences that fuel this sort of production.  What's sad is that there are certain touches, the kind that keep me from fully embracing this as a total failure, that might have gone on to a better project.

Love at first sight. Foolish. Yadda yadda.

I enjoyed the enthusiasm that all the voice actors brought to their roles.  McAvoy and Blunt both are astonishingly playful and almost enjoyably brash in the lead roles.  Plus we get the added bonus of Jason Statham having a lot of fun as Tybalt, and Patrick Stewart makes the most of a cameo that builds on his strengths as a Sesame Street performer.  There are even hints of creativity that would have gone to better use in another production.  I loved the poor stone goldfish that achieved freedom just to keep sinking to the bottom of a pool, and a very funny aside with a Hulk Hogan voice-over advertising the Terrafirminator (a lawn-mower whose side-effects include heightened levels of testosterone, and rare instances where people explode simply looking at the machine).

Here is my hope.  The people involved in the gleefully anarchic seconds where G&J is enjoyable are given their own project to roll with.  Maybe something in the vein of The Emperor's New Groove, or a recurring cartoon series like Adventure Time.

As it stands, pick up a book.

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Gnomeo & Juliet (2011)

Directed by Kelly Asbury.
Screenplay by a committee led by John R. Smith and Rob Sprackling.
Featuring the vocal talents of Emily Blunt and James McAvoy.

Posted by Andrew

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