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CG Animation
Director: Kelly Asbury

Cast: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Jason Statham, Patrick Stewart, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Ashley Jensen, Matt Lucas, Jim Cummings, Ozzy Osbourne, Julie Walters, Hulk Hogan, Dolly Parton, Kelly Asbury, Richard Wilson, Stephen Merchant
RunTime: 1 hr 24 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.gnomeoandjuliet.com/

Opening Day: 3 March 2011

Synopsis: The greatest love story ever told, starring...garden gnomes? In "Gnomeo & Juliet," Shakespeare's revered tale gets a comical, off-the-wall makeover. Directed by Kelly Asbury (co-director of "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 a happy ending?

Movie Review:

How many interpretations can there be on WIlliam Shakespeare's tragic romantic classic of the star crossed lovers Romeo & Juliet? Well, not enough it seems, as here comes an animated light version squarely targeted at children (and those who still squeal at cutesy stuff), with garden gnomes peppering the landscape in fair Verona Street where we lay our scene in an unnamed Caucasian suburb.

Kelly Asbury taps on his vast experience with animated features, having been involved in various capacities stretching decades with the production of well known animated films from The Little Mermaid to Kung Fu Panda, to translate Shakespeare for the young ones, filled with colourful characters and scenes peppered with jokes that will probably resonate with five year olds, and for the adults plenty of rich wordplay that will do the Bard of Avon proud. For a well known play like Romeo and Juliet adapted for the screen in just 84 minutes, you'd bet a lot of themes and subplots got pared down and distilled into just what's essential to engage and keep within the attention span of the young ones, which worked.

From the get go, those familiar with the story's characters will see the immediate parallels running (even from the chorus), with the Montagues and the Capulets split as Blue and Red gnomes respectively (told you it's easy for the young ones), highlighting the tremendous rivalry and hatred between the clans who belong to bickering neighbours living in adjacent properties. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt voice the titular leads, and are ably backed by a whole host of familiar actors such as Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Jason Statham as Tybalt who is equally as hot headed, and get this - Hulk Hogan in a voice over for what I thought to be a really hilarious moment for its casting coup.

Loosely adapting key scenes in Romeo and Juliet for its own narrative, gone are the Balcony Scene and Act 3 Scene 1 and in their place are simplified editions designed for its intended demographics, and an entire second half that had taken on a life of its own with its own unique spin. There's hardly any violence here despite the quarrels between the families, with humour in loads provided by Nanette (Ashley Jensen voicing what would have been Juliet's Nanny), and a new character in a plastic flamingo called Featherstone (Jim Cummings) who would be the party responsible for teaching our lovebirds a thing or two about true romance.

Animation wise, it's a very peculiar attempt at using inanimate objects like garden ornamental gnome pieces, and other knick knacks found in a typical garden, as characters. Clearly it's a challenge to convincingly emote them, and the surprising stance taken by the animators is that the end result came across as quite artificial, and deliberately, stiff. There's even a montage sequence to remind you that they do have a lot of grime stuck on them to get rid of (for that all important first date), and everyone's really self-conscious about their own vulnerability of being physically broken. But what worked is the character design, and there are more than a handful here that were overbearingly cute to surely elicit plenty of "awww" moments from the audience.

The songs by Elton John were much touted for the film, and while it's no easy task to try and gel known pieces of his music into the narrative, I found them to be wanting to say the least, expecting more from the repertoire available from the musician. A musical this is not, falling short of the perfect blend featured in films such as the use of Abba tunes in Mamma Mia, or that of the Beatles in Across the Universe. Thankfully though the highlight was in fact how Kelly Asbury came up with his animated interpretation, filled with plenty of laughs thanks to in-jokes, easter eggs and rich dialogues that all quite truthfully, allows for fulfilling repeat viewings.

Movie Rating:

(Gnot as bad as imagined

Review by Stefan Shih


. Tangled (2010)

. The Princess And The Frog (2009)

. Meet The Robinsons (2007)

. Chicken Little (2005)

. Tinker Bell DVD (2008)

. The Little Mermaid Trilogy DVD (2008)

. Sleeping Beauty DVD (2008)

. Alpha And Omega DVD (2010)

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