Movie Review - Gnomeo & Juliet (***)


GNOMEO & JULIET.  84 mins.  G.  Directed by Kelly Asbury.

We've gone a whole six weeks or so without a new movie for kids in theaters, so the timing on Gnomeo & Juliet couldn't be better.  This Disney/Touchstone production - originally set up at Miramax - borrows elements from Toy Story while taking a page (or two) directly out of Shakespeare's classic tale of doomed lovers.  Parents - fret not though.  The ending of Gnomeo is a lot happier than what Shakespeare intended.  The movie itself is mostly enjoyable, inoffensive fluff that will keep the kids happy and parents mildly amused.
Set in the backyard of two warring houses, Gnomeo & Juliet tells the story of two garden gnomes who fall in love despite their family's wishes.  The basic plot structure is recycled Shakespeare, though for huge stretches of the movie it hardly bears a resemblance.  These garden gnomes come to life while humans are away, and enjoy drag racing on lawnmowers.   The whole movie is set to Elton John songs - some new, most classics.  It's a peculiar choice (I'm not sure what connects Elton John to lawn ornaments), but certainly a welcome one.  Stylistic choices - be they right or wrong - are always better than no choices at all.
Gnomeo is directed by Kelly Asbury, a co-director on the far-superior Shrek 2.  The script is by a committee of about 20 different people.  Okay, maybe not that many, but the end credit for screenplay took up the entire screen so let that tell you something.  If the story seems a bit incoherent at first, don't worry - the movie finds its footing as it progresses.  You may even find yourself touched by the story of a lonely, plastic pink flamingo - I was.  In any event, viewers can always marvel at the detailed textures on the gnomes (seriously, how long did it take to animate every ceramic crater or piece of chipped paint?!) and wondering which famous British actor is voicing which character.  For the record, the voice cast includes James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, and PatrickStewart, among others - an impressive lot, to be sure.  Lame puns aside, this one's alright.

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