Our Score: 2 out of 5 stars
“This story has been told…a lot.” So intones a cute animated garden gnome as he introduces “Gnomeo and Juliet.” And he’s right. There have been over 70 films that are based in some way on William Shakespeare’s story of ill fated young lovers. There have been some great ones (“West Side Story”). Some good ones (both the 1968 version with Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey and the 1996 Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes model). And then there’s “Gnomeo and Juliet.”
Since the story has been told…a lot…I’ll give you a quick rundown here. Gnomeo (McAvoy) is a strapping young gnome protecting the garden of Mrs. Montague. He’s protecting it from the assorted gnomes and critters that lurk in the garden next door belonging to Mr. Capulet. While racing lawn mowers against the evil Tybalt (Jason Statham), Gnomeo stumbles into an empty garden where he meets the fair Juliet (Blunt). Sparks fly and the two become smitten. But of course, to quote the Bard himself, “For Never Was a Story of More Woe, Than This of Juliet and Her Romeo.” That’s nice.
The film is occasionally funny but has a script that goes all over the place. I have no idea why it took nine writers AND William Shakespeare to write this film. It’s almost like they took several versions of the same story and just filmed the ones they wanted to. Does a “G” rated film really need a “Brokeback Mountain” reference? Or to have characters “smashed” against a wall? And if the film is meant for kids, why are they using Elton John’s catalog of songs that pre-date the Bicentennial? I would be shocked if there is an 8-year old out there that is going to sit up in his or her seat and sing along to “Crocodile Rock” or “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” Hollywood already took a bunch of songs from the 1970s and built a movie around them. It was called “Mama Mia!” So I guess in a way this film is the “Mama Mia” of garden gnomes! There is a new song in the film sung by John and Lady Gaga in an attempt to up the “hip” quotient, but to be honest I didn’t see any of the kids singing along to that one either.
The animation isn’t bad, but once again the ugly head of converted 3D has reared itself. As the story goes, if you cry wolf too many times eventually no one is going to come to your rescue. Same thing here. If you advertise your film in 3D and it’s not (once again I must make the argument that increasing the depth of field is not the way the 3D process is perceived) people are not going to show up. The saving grace for Gnomeo and his friends is the outstanding vocal talent contributing to the film. Michael Caine, Maggie Smith and the rest give true emotional depth to the story. Asbury was one of three directors that created “Shrek 2.” Sadly he couldn’t find the same magic by himself.