“Gnomeo & Juliet in 3D” (Rated G, 84 min.) is the latest incarnation of the Shakespearean classic “Romeo & Juliet”, where ceramic garden gnomes re-interpret the story of star-crossed lovers in the backyards of addresses 2B and Not 2B on Verona Street.
The Capulet red gnomes “have been enemies forever,” according to Lord Redbrick, voiced by Michael Caine. The Montague blue gnomes led by Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith), agree.
Gnomeo Montague (James McAvoy) and Juliet Capulet (Emily Blunt) meet when he tracks her while she’s pursuing a divinely beautiful flower deep within Montague territory. Borrowing elements from ninja, “James Bond” and “Toy Story” films, their first meeting leaves them both wanting more. That’s when the film shifts into high gear.
While Gnomeo and Juliet conspire to see each other, their crazy families wage an increasingly ridiculous war that escalates against each other and their gardens.
Beginning with lawnmower drag races and ending with the arrival of the intimidating Terrafirminator, voiced by none other than Hulk Hogan, the entire “epic” sequence is wonderfully supported by the Elton John soundtrack. Only the presence of nearby humans affects the war since gnomes freeze until humans turn their backs.
Two funny aspects of this film are the dozens of sight gags and pop-culture references made within the film, including ones to Elton John, “The Matrix,” “Rebel without a Cause,” Barbie dolls, men’s thong swimsuits and more. While the references sometimes go overboard in trying to be cute, they mostly work well by keeping the film comically funny and romantic.
Meanwhile, Gnomeo and Juliet’s love keeps blooming with the help of sympathetic friends and bystanders who could not care less about the
Nanette the Frog (Ashley Jensen), Juliet’s nurse and hilariously loud and indiscreet co-conspirator, absent-mindedly tries her best to help Juliet. Then there’s Featherstone, the Cuban Pink Flamingo, (Jim Cummings) who lost his life’s great love, if not his syrupy thick accent, and doesn’t want our protagonists to suffer the same cold fate.
With throw-in help from a giant Shakespeare statue (Patrick Stewart), an ever-present toadstool, and a gentle little deer named Fawn (Ozzy Osbourne), the film strongly benefits from an excellent supporting cast.
Graphically, the film is vibrantly colorful and realistic without getting in the way of the main story. While black plastic 3-D glasses are required to properly view “Gnomeo & Juliet,” this reviewer forgot about them after about half an hour in the theater.
Musically, the film benefited from its alliance with Elton John’s Rocket Films studio. Besides several classic John songs, such as “Your Song,” the movie’s characters also engaged in a few musical pieces that contributed to the film’s zaniness and sense of humor.
Unlike the actual “Romeo & Juliet,” this movie does not aspire to storytelling greatness, but rather to be fun, funny and entertaining. It succeeds on most levels. This film is highly recommended if you have kids, but if you don’t, it’s worth the price of a matinee to see with your friends.
Story by Chuck Heffner