'Gnomeo & Juliet' high on smiles

Article Published: Feb. 17, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
'Gnomeo & Juliet' high on smiles

Emily Blunt and James McAvoy lend their voices to 'Gnomeo & Juliet.'


There was probably a time when directors thought a modern-day interpretation of William Shakespeare's plays was fresher than an untamed shrew.

Now it's the opposite. Folks are more hard-pressed to find any of the bard's plays set in their intended time and place, making any traditional presentation seem refreshing by comparison.

But it's that feeling of "been there, done that," perhaps, that keeps filmmakers searching for timely spins on timeless stories.

The animated comedy, "Gnomeo & Juliet," succeeds in presenting one of Shakespeare's most popular works in a most unusually creative way - garden gnomes.

Expertly animated with an impeccable attention to detail, "Gnomeo" is a visual feast, vibrant and colorful in all the bright ways, with a spectacular 3-D presentation that only helps.

What it lacks in depth is offset by Kelly Asbury's ("Shrek 2") happy-go-lucky direction and the irrefutable influence of executive producer Sir Elton John, who also furnishes the music.

And though the characters and storytelling fall somewhat flat (especially compared to those of Pixar's winning productions), it's hard not to smile.

"Gnomeo & Juliet" sets the stage in the respective backyards of two neighboring (and bickering) households. Miss Montague (Julie Walters, "Harry Potter") and Mr. Capulet (Richard Wilson, TV's "Doctor Who") take pride in their backyards, filling them to the brim with gnomes, fountains, ornamental toilets with flowers growing in them, etc., always trying to one up the other.

Unbeknownst to them, they have a little help from their garden gnomes, who come to life when the homeowners are away. Just like their human counterparts, the gnomes -Montague's blue and Capulet's red - war with each other for no particular reason, other than that's the way it's always been.

When Gnomeo (James McAvoy, "The Last King of Scotland"), son of blue matriarch Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith, "Harry Potter"), shares a chance meeting with Juliet (Emily Blunt, "The Young Victoria"), daughter of red patriarch Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine, "Harry Brown"), the two experience love at first sight.

Both know better, but refuse to let their families' feud interfere with their budding relationship.
Naturally, "Gnomeo & Juliet" is a very, very loose adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet," what with the anthropomorphic garden gnomes and all, but Asbury and company weave innumerable Shakespearean references and gags throughout.

Though the filmmakers seem preoccupied with cramming in these references for parents' sakes, there's still plenty to laugh at from an adult perspective, including Ozzy Osbourne voicing a fawn lawn ornament and Hulk Hogan as the pitchman for a behemoth lawnmower.

At a mere 84 minutes, "Gnomeo & Juliet" moves quickly, offering little time to grow acquainted with its characters, making them seem, well, ornamental. But it's apparent the filmmakers are gleefully caught up in the silliness of it all, and, fortunately, it's contagious.

"Gnomeo and Juliet," rated G, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, visit http://www.mountaintimes.com/movies.

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