The story of Romeo and Juliet is a story that is retold at least once every generation. It can be retold using a different time period or with alien races or perhaps even in a thirty second commercial. It is a fairly easy story and parts can be tweaked given the audience and intention. So begins the story of Gnomeo and Juliet. Take one part animation, one part garden gnomes and a dose of laughter that could be just what the classic play needs. Or it could become a tragedy of the highest order.
There are two elderly people who share a large house. One is Mrs. Montague and the other is Mr. Capulet. They can not stand each other. In such, part of their daily routine is to look after their separate prized garden. One is decorated in blue (Montague) while the other is decorated in red(Capulet). However, they both share one thing in their design. They both like to use garden gnomes. When Mrs. Montague and Mr. Capulet go away however, the gnomes magically come to life. So starts our story.
Lord Redbrick (voiced by Michael Caine) is the leader of red gnomes while Lady Blueberry (voiced by Maggie Smith) leads the blues. But they each have a sibling that is more important to this story. There is Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy), son to Blueberry and the prince of the group. Then there is Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt) who is the daughter to Redbrick but mostly kept from public view since the lead red wants to shelter her from the day to day activities.
But first, let us experience the thrill that is a lawnmower race. This sporting event between the two clans is always full of surprises. In this race, Gnomeo will pilot the blue mower while the red one will be manned by Tybalt (voiced by Jason Statham). Gnomeo puts on a good show but Tybalt is not above a little tomfoolery as he cheats to win. Gnomeo’s mower is devastated in the process. But this little blue gnome vows revenge.
Meanwhile, Juliet has spotted a rare orchid that she thinks will be perfect for the garden. However, her father has forbidden her to leave the confines of home. But any young girl doesn’t really listen to her father and decides to hatch a plan to sneak out. She finds a costume with help from her froggy friend, Nanette (voiced by Ashley Jensen). (She becomes a ninja). Juliet sets off into the night to get the special orchid.
Gnomeo and his friend, Benny (voiced by Matt Lucas) plan their revenge. Their idea is to get into the red’s garden and spray paint the opposing lawnmower with a shade of blue. Getting into the garden is easy enough but things don’t quite go as planned and the two are discovered. They try to escape but Gnomeo soon finds himself in a different garden entirely. Cue the meeting scene.
Gnomeo spots a ninja (Juliet in disguise) walking up a greenhouse. He runs after her and they soon are running up to the top at opposite ends trying to reach this orchid. In a split second, both reach for the flower and then realize the other has a hold of it. A fight ensues. The battle continues with nobody able to gain the upper hand. Soon, both find themselves at the bottom of a pool and the truth is revealed. Gnomeo is a blue, Juliet is a red and they are both deeply in love. Shakespeare runneth-over.
When Gnomeo and Juliet came to the theaters, I actually played with the idea to go see it. Honestly, I am glad I saw something else. I have no issue with Romeo and Juliet adaptations, in some cases they can be quite spectacular. Actually, that is one of the best things about this movie and how much they embrace the original play but with a kid’s spin to make it a little less tragic. One is able to point out just about every character you can find in the play. The names change but most keep their respective personality.
However, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention the guest voice cast in this movie. Names like Hulk Hogan, Ozzy Osbourne and Patrick Stewart show up in some nice cameos. But if the movie were to name a show stealer that would be Jim Cummings (legendary voice actor) voicing the part of Featherstone, the Pink (and very Cuban) Flamingo. I almost mistaken him for Robin Williams at first but quickly realized who I was listening to.
But in the same breath, it is a mess of an animated movie. The jokes aren’t very funny and some of the scenes are just plain silly. The ending scene is so overblown that even though by this time we buy into the fact that garden gnomes are real, we can’t buy the craziness that goes on. I appreciate adult humor in the movie but honestly some kids might not be able to follow along.
The video is in 1.85:1 widescreen presentation at 1080p resolution. The color is excellent and the detail is strong as expected in any Dreamworks presentation these days. To give a viewer an idea of how much detail, just take a look at any gnome and one can see the cracks and wear as if they were the “real” thing. They are much more than red or blue. Furthermore, backgrounds are full of life and really give the viewer a window inside this fantasy world.
For the audio portion, we get a 7.1 DTS-HD track for English (also included are 5.1 Dolby Digital Mixes for Spanish). I really do love 7.1 tracks (even when you are regulated to 5.1 limitations) and this one does not disappoint at all. Dialog is super clear and never seems quiet (even hushed conversation). Sound effects as well as environment noise appear frequently and are treated in the same respect. Surrounds are used all the time and there are really no complaints to be had. Great track, just perhaps not enough. Subtitles are also included for English and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: Winnie the Pooh, Spooky Buddies: Curse of the Halloween Hound, and Lion King.
- Elton Builds a Garden 5:46: The movie’s soundtrack belong to one Sir Elton John. Rocket Pictures is actually owned partly by Elton in fact. So it only makes sense. But this feature is more along the lines of a mini-making of featurette just with a lot of Elton. This also represents the first time the legendary duo of Elton and Bernie Taupin have worked on an animated film together.
- Alternate Endings with Filmmaker Introductions 4:05 : The Alternate Ending is first, it isn’t animated unfortunately, just sketched. It works okay, but it is nothing special or different. An alternate dance sequence is also included, again no animation, I think this one might have worked better, but it is kinda hard to tell without more detail.
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes with Filmmaker Introductions 42:25: Eight scenes are given here. An alternate opening and other fun stuff are included. These aren’t quite animated either, but they look further along than the Alternate Endings so you can at least enjoy them. Featherstone’s game is particularly good but I can always use more Jim Cummings. The exile scene is also interesting if you are into the Romeo and Juliet lore. Lots of things to go through here.
- Frog Talk with Ashley Jensen 1:46: Another one of the voice highlights, Ashley is on display here. Along with her voice, in rehearsal she puts on quite the visual performance too. The Japanese scene is very funny. Too short though.
- The Fawn of Darkness 1:29: Fawn is actually Ozzy Osbourne believe or not. It is a throw away part but Ozzy certainly makes it his own.
- Crocodile Rock Music Video 1:32: Nelly Furtado and Elton John do the singing for this one. As expected, it is mostly clips from the movie mixed in with bits of Nelly and Elton doing singing honors. Doesn’t work at all.
- DVD : Includes the film plus the Elton, Ashley Jensen and Music video featurettes. Honestly, they could have included everything except the long deleted scenes package and been okay. Too much work I guess to put in the extra 5 minutes.
Unfortunately I was disappointed with Gnomeo and Juliet. Even my wife who is much bigger on Shakespeare than I am found it to be ridiculous. This comes from two folks who are big on cartoons. The one thing I did like was the impressive voice cast, they did a great job. But too much, too often we find the movie goes far beyond silly and straight into the land of unfunny and unwatchable.
The disc package has excellent audio and video headlined by the one and only Elton John who permeates every piece of music in the film. The extras only stand out because of the deleted scenes, the rest is unfortunately filler. I have trouble recommending this film to anybody, young or old. Youngsters probably won’t get it and adults won’t find it very funny. It is a shame honestly, because when I saw the trailer, it looked like it had a lot of potential.