The greatest love story ever told, starring…garden gnomes? In the upcoming “Gnomeo & Juliet,” Shakespeare’s revered tale gets a comical, off-the-wall makeover. Directed by Kelly Asbury (“Shrek 2”) and showcasing both classic and original songs by Elton John, the film features the voices of James McAvoy and Emily Blunt as Gnomeo and Juliet, who have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors. But with plastic pink flamingos and thrilling lawnmower races in the mix, can this young couple find lasting happiness? (from MovieWeb.com)
When Touchstone Pictures released Gnomeo and Juliet to theaters earlier this year, the film flew a bit under the radar, so it’s kind of surprising to see the home entertainment release get stamped with Disney’s name on it (Disney is the parent company of the Touchstone imprint). However, after viewing Gnomeo and Juliet, it’s obvious why the movie isn’t an official Disney release. Adapting William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for children isn’t an easy task, and Gnomeo and Juliet does its best to do so in a family friendly way, but director Kelly Asbury (the guy who brought us the excellent Shrek 2 alongside a couple other directors) somehow manages to get an animated film of PG-rated quality under a misleading G rating.
Gnomeo and Juliet will probably connect with a young audience best, but Asbury is definitely hoping to win over some parents with the edgy tone of the film. Some of the comedy is pretty risque at times (well, for a G-rated film at least) and I even picked up one usage of the word “d*mn” when I had the Blu-Ray’s subtitles turned on (typically you shouldn’t find a single profane word under the “G” banner). It’s also just a bit more than bizarre to have an animated film that has its cast of characters entirely consisting of… garden gnomes. It’s something you can get past as you watch the film — and something that grows funnier when you realize how fragile the ceramic characters are — but the approach is very Toy Story meets Over The Hedge, with less effective results. You start to feel like you’ve seen this idea before and it was done better. The other problem is that the script just isn’t quite smart or sharp enough to strongly pull it off. Maybe that has to do with being limited to contemporizing a Shakespearean work, but in the end, the movie isn’t really all that funny and isn’t all that memorable.
In all fairness, Gnomeo and Juliet is a cute film. The thing it has going for it most is some really fantastic animation. It’s not the absolute best I’ve seen, but it’s very good and several moments (especially when water is involved) really impressed me. Also, the voice acting is good. Emily Blunt and James McAvoy are charming as the title characters, while Michael Caine does what he does best in his role and Jason Statham is appropriately menacing as the evil Tybalt. However, my personal favorite is Disney Afternoon cartoon alumnus Jim Cummings (who voices Tigger and Winnie The Pooh these days) who channels his Don Karnage voice from TaleSpin for the lovable pink flamingo Featherstone. Finally, Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men) has a great cameo as a statue of William Shakepeare who warns Gnomeo that his love affair with Juilet won’t end well. But since this is a children’s film, you can bet that things will get a happy ending despite its source material.
Aside from the aforementioned “d*mn” that I caught in the subtitles, there is no other profane language, aside from the occasional subtle innuendo (like saying someone’s “tulips look limp” or Nanette asking Juliet if Gnomeo’s hat is “big and pointy”). In addition to that, there’s this creepy little male gnome in a onepiece almost-thong bikini and a romantic montage shows Nanette the frog laying on a bed of roses with petals covering her chest and crotch (although her character doesn’t wear clothes anyway, since she’s a frog) like the iconic scene in American Beauty. In another scene, a gnome pops out of a washing machine with a large human woman’s bra on his head, and he then uses it like a rope to climb a chair. All of this might sound minor or even silly to mention, but it felt inappropriate and out of place for a G-rated film for “All Ages.” Lastly, there is some violence where a character dies by being shattered (after all, they’re ceramic garden gnomes) and another one is briefly believed to be dead. To alleviate the intensity of a character actually dying in the film, we do see the shattered victim all put back together as assembled broken pieces during the celebratory dance sequence at the end (because, of course, every “good” kids movie needs a dance number at the end……. right?).
Again, in all fairness, Gnomeo and Juliet is hardly a train wreck and is still watchable, but the fact remains that there have been better and more clever animated films released in the past year. And with Pixar’s latest venture, Cars 2 and DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda 2 both upon us this summer, it would be best to just save your money to take the kids to see either of those than purchase a copy of Gnomeo and Juliet. It may be worth a rental on a rainy afternoon, but you can skip adding this one to your collection — unless, of course, you happen to be a sucker for garden gnomes.
– Review date: 5/22/11; Written by John DiBiase
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
As I said before, Gnomeo and Juliet looks fantastic in HD on Blu-Ray. The Blu-Ray release comes with a DVD as well, and there are a few extras on the disc for those interested in going a little further with their Gnomeo and Juliet experience. The discs are light on the extras, but let’s take a gander at what one could expect from the Blu-ray disc…
Elton Builds A Garden (5:47) – This short behind-the-scenes featurette talks about how “Rocket Pictures” is actually a company that is co-owned by musician Elton John and how he became involved with the movie after the film company decided to work on it. They also talk about the song “Love Builds A Garden,” which is featured in the most heart-moving moment in the film where the flamingo tells of how the couple who had placed him in their garden had stopped loving each other and separated, and how the song was created for this film. It’s also interesting to learn about how Elton enlisted the help of composer James Newton Howard and how Howard integrated a lot of Elton’s classic songs into the theatrical score.
Frog Talk With Ashley Jensen (1:46) is a very brief video dedicated to Ashley Jensen being chosen as the voice of Nanette. It’s so brief, in fact, that I’m not really sure why they even bothered to include it.
The Fawn of Darkness (1:29) is dedicated to Ozzy Osbourne’s portrayal of the lawn fawn in the movie. It’s interesting to see Ozzy involved in anything for children, really, but he does a good job as Fawn and it’s funny to hear him talk candidly about how easy the job was.
Alternate Endings with Filmmaker Introductions – These are just two different animated storyboard sequences, both very brief, that show a little bit differently how the dance number at the end could go. The one in the finished film is definitely better and I’m not sure it was even necessary to include these on the BD release.
Deleted and Alternate Scenes with Filmmaker Introductions (42:25) – There are eight alternate and deleted sequences that are included here in animated storyboard form. Each have introductions from the filmmakers and include scratch voice recordings and some film score mixed in. The alternate opening is actually a pretty amusing option for how they were planning to open the film originally. It features these odd occurences of the Reds damaging stuff in the Blues’ yard and vice versa, emphasizing the extent of the feud between the two rivalries. “Featherstone’s Game” is a silly scene where Featherstone tries to get Gnomeo to play a game that he makes up consisting of pieces from a smattering of different real games (like Twister, Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Trouble, etc). It was best left out. Another alternate introduction to Featherstone shows him as a complete hippie… and is a mess of an idea. The next scene shows the actual moment where Tybalt destroys the blue gnomes’ prize flower. There’s an extended alternate scene of what takes place after Tybalt gets smashed that runs over nine minutes. It’s over the top – paying homage to CSI where a murder investigation is launched upon the finding of Tybalt’s remains. It makes Gnomeo’s exhile pretty dark and dramatic. The next scene is an elaborate “Wedding Ruse” scene where Juliet plans a fake wedding (and I’m not sure it makes sense). The next scene has the flamingo interrogating a penguin garbage can about Gnomeo (and it features Jim Cummings doing the voice here). It’s silly, but a cute scene. Lastly, there’s a scene where a couple weathervanes help Gnomeo find his way home.
Crocodile Rock Music Video (1:32) is a minute and a half-long music video featuring Nelly Furtado and Elton John doing the film version of “Crocodile Rock” set to scenes from the movie and shots of Nelly and Elton singing in the studio. I’m not really sure why it’s so short…
Overall, the bonus features don’t do a whole lot to build on the film. Little insight is given into the making of the movie and interviews with the main cast are sorely (and clearly) missing. The kids might dig this one, but you can definitely do better in childrens’ entertainment.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 5/22/11)
Parental Guide: Quick Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: A gnome narrator makes reference to “loins;” A character calls another “illiterate,” but he thinks it means “illegitimate” and responds “my parents were married!”; Nanette tells Juliet that she has “junk in the trunk;” We hear an adult human woman singing the following lyrics to herself: “Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me? Don’t you wish your girlfriend was a freak like me?”; A male gnome wears a tiny thong-like bikini that shows part of his butt in the back; Benny crawls into a washing machine and ends up inside a large human woman’s bra. We see it again after he gets out of it; During a romantic montage, we see Nanette the frog laying on a bed of roses with roses covering her chest and crotch (although her character doesn’t wear clothes anyway, since she’s a frog) like the iconic scene in American Beauty; Gnomeo and Juliet try to kiss several times and finally do twice at the end of the film; Juliet tells a gnome his “tulips look limp;” When Juliet tells Nanette she met a gnome, Nanette asks if his hat is “big and pointy.”
In two instances, we see some shattered pieces of ceramic which are either the remains of a gnome or believed to be.
During a lawn mower race, Tybalt menacingly tries to run Gnomeo off the road; In another scene, Tybalt flies into a wall and presumably dies; We see a truck nearly hit Gnomeo and then see some shattered ceramic on the street. We later see that it’s a broken pot and not Gnomeo; A huge lawnmower plows through a yard making a large mess of things and then demolishes a tower where two gnomes are, presumably killing them, but we later see that they are OK.
Special Gnomeo & Juliet Extras!
Bonus Clip- Alternate Ending Dance Routine
Film Clip- Terrifirminator
Film Clip- Damage
Film Clip- Featherstone