Gnomeo & Juliet (Touchstone Pictures, G)

The animation team deserves the film’s only praise, for the beautiful world they have created and the painstaking attention to detail given to each and every character.

 
 
 
 
 
Gnomeo & Juliet is a somewhat enjoyable movie, but definitely one geared toward children; it has tons of style but very little substance. A very loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, the movie uses only the very basic idea of two people, er, garden gnomes who come from warring families, well, backyards, and fall in love despite their families’ wishes. Gnomeo (James McAvoy) is a blue gnome while Juliet (Emily Blunt) is a red gnome. Like the Capulets and Montagues, the red and blue gnomes have hated each other since time immemorial.
 
Gnomeo’s mother, Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith), loves her son dearly but allows him to engage in the dangerous rivalry despite her better judgment. Juliet’s father, Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine), on the other hand, tries to keep Juliet safe by forbidding her from leaving her perch on which she has spent most of her life.
 
The other characters that inhabit the world include Juliet’s best friend, Nanette (Ashley Jensen), a fountain frog who has a good heart but is a bit of an airhead. One of the only other connections to Shakespeare’s play is the character of Tybalt (Jason Statham), who is the leader of the red warrior gnomes and usually the instigator of any attack or sabotage. One of the most hilarious characters is Featherstone (Jim Cummings), a pink flamingo lawn ornament with a hard to place accent and desperate desire to make friends.
 
The animation team deserves the film’s only praise, for the beautiful world they have created and the painstaking attention to detail given to each and every character. The team has taken the time to study every inch of the kitschy little garden ornaments and have included flaws in the paint, chips, scratches and imperfections that would be apparent on any shoddily made decoration. Each gnome is given its own unique appearance, which gives even greater texture to the world we see.
 
Director Kelly Asbury, who also directed Shrek 2, does let the action dominate the movie, which is understandable to a point, because this is a children’s movie. But too much of the story gets subverted by the exciting lawnmower races or Gnomeo and Juliet’s adventures in an adjoining yard while the characters suffer and become little more than caricatures of what we have seen before. Obviously every nuance and detail of Shakespeare’s original work isn’t appropriate for young viewers, but Asbury and his writers could have included more from the play, which would have made this more enjoyable for both the children and adults in the audience.
 
Gnomeo & Juliet does a decent job of creating an exciting story for children to enjoy. The movie is of course being released in 3-D (as are an alarming number of movies of late). The effects are rather impressive at times and aren’t nearly as distracting as we’ve seen in some animated 3-D releases, but overall this element is unnecessary. One of the biggest problems with the 3-D technology is how dark the screen appears with the glasses that must be worn. The animation in Gnomeo & Juliet is so colorful and vivid that the audience is actually done a disservice by having the images dulled down by the plastic eyewear. | Matthew F. Newlin

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