“Gnomeo and Juliet” starts out with the introduction, “The story you are about to see has been told before. A lot. And now we are going to tell it again. But different.” Here instead of families feuding, it’s a collection of garden gnomes and other lawn ornaments that live on opposite sides of a fence. The feud between the human Miss Montague (Julie Walters) and Mr. Capulet (Richard Wilson), extends to their garden ornaments that compete against each other to have the best garden. Miss Montague and Mr. Capulet have gone so far as to divide their garden and home by color; hers is blue, and his is red.
Each side of the fence features memorable characters. On the blue side there’s Gnomeo (James McAvoy), his mother Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith), his friend Benny (Matt Lucas), and his trusty mushroom statue who doesn’t speak, but behaves like a puppy. On the red side there’s Juliet (Emily Blunt), her dad Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine), Tybalt (Jason Statham), Juliet’s friend and frog statue Nanette (Ashley Jensen), and a fawn (Ozzy Osbourne). Oddly, the Travelocity gnome does not make a cameo appearance.
When Juliet spots an orchid in a distant greenhouse that could put the blue garden to shame, she is desperate to retrieve it, despite her dad insisting she can’t go because she’s too delicate. Elsewhere, Gnomeo sets off on a lawnmower race against Tybalt, only to end up with a busted lawnmower. So he, along with some of the more reluctant blue’s, decide to go into the red garden (something they’ve never done) for a little payback. Gnomeo puts on a disguise (dirt, and various yard items) and Juliet, also puts on a disguise (a black tube sock) so she can go retrieve the flower without being seen.
Both set off on their individual missions, but end up running into each other in the night at the greenhouse. It’s actually pretty sweet when they meet and their initial banter only adds to the playfulness as they both try and take the orchid. When they finally realize one’s a blue and the other’s a red, they’re shocked, but despite everything they’ve been told, they manage to see each other for who they are, not what side of the fence they’re from. Of course, the rest of the gnomes are not so easily convinced and the war that was started escalates back and forth.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of the film is when Gnomeo and Juliet meet Featherstone (Jim Cummings). He is a flamingo garden ornament who was locked in a garden shed for twenty years. He’s very chatty after having spent so much time alone, but he’s extremely good hearted and promises to keep their secret. As the film progresses, so does Featherstone’s story. In the garden shed is memorabilia (and more nods to Shakespeare) that sheds further light on his background and why he wants so much for Gnomeo and Juliet to be happy together. There is a flashback that feels a little reminiscent to a Pixar film, but it does tell the story well. Featherstone’s reminder that though he couldn’t do anything about other people taking away his love, Gnomeo and Juliet can.
While “Gnomeo and Juliet” is a familiar story, it does manage to have a playful approach to the telling. While I didn’t initially think watching garden ornaments would make for that much entertainment, the film managed to surprise me. Not only does it have humor, but it also has a great deal of heart and even some adventure. With lots of nods to the original, and fun interpretations along the way, “Gnomeo and Juliet” is worth a look. An especially memorable and humorous moment is when Gnomeo talks with a Shakespeare statue (Patrick Stewart). The writing is fun, especially when they play with some of the more famous “Romeo and Juliet” lines, and the performances are very memorable. There are some so-so points throughout the 84 minute film, but the whole does pay off in an enjoyable, family-friendly film with a satisfying ending.
VIDEO: "Gnomeo and Juliet" is presented in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC) on Blu-Ray by Disney. Picture quality is pleasing, as the animation looked crisp and detailed throughout the majority of the show. No edge enhancement, pixelation or other flaws appeared, and the image seemed consistently clean. Colors looked bold and bright, with nice saturation and no smearing. Overall, this was a lovely presentation of the material.
SOUND: The DTS-HD 5.1 soundtrack delivers about as much as one might expect from a family film like this. Surrounds are not aggressively used, but they are put into play for some mild effects and ambience at times. Audio quality is just fine, with well-recorded dialogue and effects.
“Elton Builds a Garden” - The near six minute featurette, explores the part Elton John played in the film, including how he was involved with the movie from the very beginning. An interesting aspect of the feature is learning how the script was picked up by Elton John and David Furnish’s film company Rocket Pictures. The process of making “Gnomeo and Juliet” is an interesting one from finding the right director, cast, and even the appeal of Gnomes. The feature focuses on the original songs and musical scores for the film as well. Enjoyable.
“Frog Talk With Ashley Jensen” A brief but enjoyable look at Ashley Jensen’s role as Nanette, including interview with Jensen, footage from the film as well as the recording studio.
Also included is a music video for “Crocodile Rock Music Video” with Nelly Furtado and Elton John.
The Blu-ray also includes:
Two alternate endings, and a decent amount of deleted and alternate scenes in storyboard sequences. Also included is “The Fawn of Darkness” which takes a look at Ozzy Osbourne’s role voicing the fawn.
Final Thoughts: While “Gnomeo and Juliet” is certainly a familiar tale, but the filmmakers offer a few nice tweaks and the picture turns out to be mildly entertaining family-friendly fare.
The Film B-