Not enough laughs in 'Gnomeo and Juliet'


February 14, 2011|By BOB GARVER | Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Gnomeo, voiced by James McAvoy, left, and Juliet, voiced by Emily Blunt, center, and Featherstone, voiced by Jim Cummings, are shown in a scene from "Gnomeo and Juliet."
Touchtone Pictures

I since

rely believe that "Gnomeo and Juliet" was made after the following conversation between two executives in Disney's "Low Creativity, Moderate Profits" department:

Exec 1:  We want to do "Romeo and Juliet" for kids, but the characters shouldn't be human.  Let's do it with some cute little creatures that will make the movie more family-friendly.

Exec 2:  Why don't we make the title a pun?  Kids love puns.  Or at least we'll tell them they love puns.

Exec 1:  How about "Romeo and Blueliet"?  All of the characters are blue.

Exec 2:  Let's leave "Juliet" alone and do something with "Romeo".

Exec 1:  Ooh I've got it.  "Snowmeo and Juliet".  All the characters are snowmen. 

Exec 2:
  "Cromeo and Juliet".  They're all crows. Or they're all made of chrome.

Exec 1:  "Yo-yomeo and Juliet".  They're yo-yos and their feuding because they're on opposite hands.

Exec 2:  "'Fromeo and Juliet".  They all have big funny afros

Exec 1:  "Gnomeo and Juliet".  They're garden gnomes.

Exec 2:  Good one.  We'll go with that.  Although I still kinda like "'Fromeo and Juliet"…

    It's hard to watch "Gnomeo and Juliet" and not think that the title came first, and the movie was made around it.  Garden gnomes aren't that funny, their backyard environment isn't a world of possibilities for an animated comedy, and kids aren't going to be thrilled about the idea of an ugly garden gnome movie anyway.  There's only one tacky pink flamingo in the movie, even though flamingos are much funnier-looking than gnomes.  The whole cast should have been made up of them.  Call it "Flamingomeo and Juliet." 

  Those familiar with the story can anticipate the plot.  Two feuding gnome families live in the backyard of grouchy duplex neighbors Montague and Capulet.  Gnomeo (James McAvoy) is the star lawnmower racer for the Blue (Montague) gnomes.  Juliet (Emily Blunt) is the sheltered daughter of the Red (Capulet) gnomes.  One night, dressed all in black, they both sneak out to sabotage the other family.  They meet in the middle and fall in love.  But then they discover each other's true colors and their minds fill with problems and questions.  Can a Blue actually love a Red?  Will the other Blues and Reds even allow the two to love each other?  Hint: the movie has a Disney ending, not the Shakespeare one.

    The film is smattered with Shakespeare references (including a cameo by a statue of The Bard), which leads me to believe that it is trying to appeal to the high school theater geek demographic.  Once it hits DVD, its legacy will probably be as one of those movies that English teachers pop in for a rainy day "source vs. adaptation" discussion.  Its legacy will not be that it is entertaining.  

    I liked the voice casting, there's something positive.  McAvoy and Blunt are charming enough for me to root for them (something I don't usually say about McAvoy).  I liked the idea of Jason Stathem as Tybalt, Juliet's villainous goon of a cousin.  Shame we only get his voice, since I'm sure Stathem would nail the part in live action.  The film could have cast some goofy celebrity comedian in the part of the flamingo, but they go with respected veteran voice actor Jim Cummings — always a treat.  

    I hold Disney animation to a higher standard than "Gnomeo and Juliet".  It isn't that the film isn't aiming high, it just isn't aiming high enough.  Its characters, jokes, and spirit would be a lot more enjoyable if I didn't know I'd seen them all done before and done much better.  Your kids might enjoy it more than I did, since they haven't had as many chances to see the same things done before and done better.  The film is harmless, but it didn't hold my interest.  I've got a pun name of my own for it.  I call it "So-Someo and Juliet".

Two stars out of five.
"Gnomeo and Juliet" is rated G.  Its runtime is 88 minutes.  

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