Film Review: Gnomeo and Juliet (2011)

“The story you’re about to hear as been told before, a lot”

Oh my giddy aunt, I wasn’t expecting that! Kelly Asbury’s computer-animated reworking of Romeo and Juliet (backed financially by Disney) takes us to the world of Verona Drive where elderly neighbours Mrs Montague and Mr Capulet spend their days bickering and sniping at each other whilst tending their equally impressive back gardens. And when their backs are turned, their garden gnomes come to life and play out the same conflict in miniature. Such is the world of Gnomeo and Juliet.

It is very much a family film so therefore this is very much an adaptation of the Bard and for me, it’s a rather entertaining one, if you’re seriously missing Mercutio then you’re seriously missing the point. James McAvoy’s effervescent blue-hat Gnomeo and Emily Blunt’s spirited red-hat Juliet make a highly charming couple, who fall for each other despite the enmity between their clans as typified by fierce back-alley lawnmower racing. But when things go too far – in a sequence that I actually found quite shocking, and moving – it seems that tragedy is destined to haunt this pair no matter what form they take.

It’s only a brief moment, but one of real emotional depth which completely hooked me into the film and left me keen to know how they were going to play out their version of the story. With the assistance of a pink plastic flamingo called Featherstone, a frog-sprinkler called Nanette and a speechless little ‘shroom, there’s amusing shenanigans aplenty and with some serious quality in the voice cast – Maggie Smith and Michael Caine head up the gnome clans, Julie Walters and Richard Wilson their human counterparts and even Patrick Stewart popping in as a talking statue of some guy called Shakespeare. 

And for all that it’s a kids film, it is packed full with visual gags and scripted in-jokes to keep Shakespeare fans on their toes. The names of all the moving companies should ring a bell as should the door numbers, Julius Caesar gets misquoted and a line from Macbeth is worked in ingeniously thanks to a fortuitously named dog. I wasn’t much of a fan of the way Elton John’s music was featured so heavily as to almost make it a musical but the light-hearted entertainment value of Gnomeo and Juliet makes it a delightfully pleasant watch.

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