Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

As this animated film ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ opens up, garden gnomes from the adjoining blue court and red court are frolicking around and having a good old time to some Elton John pop tune. This is peculiar to me because I’m thinking that the song that they are playing has no relation in any shape or form to what the gnomes are actually doing. Whatever… we just move on. Soon after that, blue gnome Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and his enemy red gnome Tybalt (Jason Stratham) engage in a spirited lawn mower race with ‘Saturday Night’s Alright’ playing in the background, again this having nothing to do with the action happening on the screen. ‘Peculiar’ I think to myself. By the time I heard an instrumental version of ‘I’m Still Standing’, arguably Sir Elton’s worst big hit, and like the tenth Elton John song I’ve heard in this movie, I’m thinking that somebody attached to this movie really loves them some Elton John. Then of course the final credits roll and we see that Elton John served as Executive Producer for ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ and so, I guess, Elton John loves him some Elton John. Which is cool. We like Elton John too. Sir Elton once tipped my dad 500 bucks for retrieving his camera he left back at his hotel, my dad being an airport limo driver at the time. That’s righteous right there. I’m just saying if you like various incarnations of the music of Elton John, it will help in your enjoyment of this animated film quite a bit, even though I don’t think I heard a version of ‘Philadelphia Freedom’, arguably Sir Elton’s greatest big hit.

What we have here is Romeo and Juliet with gnomes. Who would’ve thought? Red gnome Juliet (Emily Blunt) escapes from the tight confines of her garden ruled over by her father Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine)… the thought of ceramic gnomes propagating is a little unsettling… but Juliet escapes to capture a gorgeous orchid to show her old man that she is more than just a pretty thingie on a pedestal. While out and about Juliet runs into Gnomeo who has just narrowly escaped a raid on Juliet’s red home, the two meet, they playfully spar, they dance and they fall in love. Again… gnomes… I don’t know about this. Only after they fall in love do they realize that they are sworn enemies.

The sensible thing to do would be to forget about one another, but love won’t wait. Juliet’s best friend Nanette the garden frog sprinkler (Ashley Jensen), advises Juliet that this is what has to be… about Nanette… again a little disturbing… but since this is more Romantic Comedy than bad Shakespeare, Nanette representing that unattractive but very funny best friend to the hot female lead. Not that we found the ceramic gnome Juliet to be all that hot mind you, but Emily Blunt can talk to us all day long.

This is a version of Romeo and Juliet so our star crossed lovers must experience tragedy, or not because it is also a G-rated children’s movie. In fact Willie Shake (Patrick Stewart) is on hand in the form of a bronze statue to give the kids a quick ‘Romeo and Juliet’ primer so that they can know how this thing really is supposed to go down. Gnomeo can’t let this happen and with the help of his best friend the ceramic mushroom and his newfound colleague Featherstone the plastic flamingo (Jim Cummings), hopefully the day will be saved. Just so you know, that pink flamingo was the most disturbing thing of all. THAT creeped me out and it is still creeping me out.

I’m sitting in the theater surrounded by a bunch of prattling brats and when this movie started, from the very first frame, they all shut up. And they would not open their mouths again, with the exception of the cheers and the laughter that this movie game them, until this movie was over. That would be the most important thing that I can tell you about this movie, and this is that the kids will love it. True enough Pixar tends to make animated films that everybody, no matter what age, can enjoy but that’s a bonus because truthfully speaking this stuff is for kids. Even though these kids will not recognize a single Elton John song that’s being played.

This isn’t to say that ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ is completely infantile because it does have its clever moments strewed across its brief running time. There were a couple of times this movie made me laugh out loud, the commercial for the Terrafiminator Lawn Mower was some inspired animated comedy, this movie was bright and colorful and moved fast, just the way kids like their movies, and the Bill Shakespeare bit was also very amusing.

But while ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ isn’t completely infantile, it is mostly infantile. It’s sweet and sappy and sentimental. It’s very simple and has a lot of simple sight gags and pratfalls… a lot of coconut on the head type comedy. But like I said before, the kids seemed to be eating that stuff up.

There are better animated movies out there, no doubt, especially if you happen to be over the age of nine, but I think ‘Gnomeo and Juliet’ succeeded greatly in its primary purpose, and that being a solid piece of children’s entertainment. And I had nightmares about that Pink Flamingo. I just saw the NC-17 rated version of ‘Hatchet II’ and that didn’t scare me at all. But the Pink Flamingo…

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