Culture > Movies

Gnomeo and Juliet

Movies

Issue: "After the revolution," Feb. 26, 2011

On fair Verona Street in the town of Stratford-Upon-Avon, two garden gnome households, both alike in plaster dignity, play out a tale as old as star cross'd lovers. The animated movie Gnomeo and Juliet bases its story on Shakespeare's beloved tragedy, but makes it accessible to children.

Feuding neighbors on Verona Street create elaborate-some would say tacky-garden displays, never realizing when they turn their backs, their garden statuary has a life of its own. The blue garden boasts a squad of blue-capped gnomes, some concrete bunnies, and a magnificent wisteria blooming from a toilet. The red garden takes pride in its red tulips, carp pond, and tower capped with a maid holding a rose. That maid is Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt), the daughter of the red king.

The rivalry between the red gnomes and blue gnomes brings the blue prince, Gnomeo (James McAvoy), into Juliet's garden. It's gnome love at first sight. While the two ceramic sweethearts plot their escape, the tension between the families erupts into outright warfare.

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This film turns the wackiness dial up high. Clever Romeo and Juliet references come fast and thick. A swooning fountain frog replaces Juliet's nurse and a Cuban plastic flamingo loosely takes the place of the priest. Instead of swords, the hotheads duel with lawn mowers, including the fearsome "Terrafirminator," so powerful that "your lawn will be afraid to grow."

There are poignant moments, however, including a montage of the dissolution of a once happy marriage, as seen from the perspective of the flamingo on the lawn. But a suitably happy ending to the film pleases the kiddos while nodding to the original tragedy.

Rated G, the film has a few wink-wink jokes aimed at adults, but doesn't cross the line to inappropriate. The 3D was underwhelming and not necessary, but in good old-fashioned 2D, the family will enjoy this delightful film.

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