Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gnomeo & Juliet

There have been countless adaptations of Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed lovers, but possibly none so colourfully inanimate as garden gnomes. It’s a hilarious conceit for a jubilant kids’ animation, which stems from warring next-door neighbours Mr. Capulet and Miss Montague, whose bitter, green-thumbed grudge is fought on the frontline with their gardens’ keepers and protectors, the gnomes. Periodically, this pint-sized rivalry between the ‘Reds’ and the ‘Blues’ spills out onto the lane way, where lawnmower drag races seek to settle the score. The best drivers are none other than Gnomeo (James McAvoy), a wily Blue, and burley Red Tybalt (Jason Statham). But this cement feud is cast into sharp relief once Gnomeo falls head over heels for the spunky and outgoing Juliet (Emily Blunt).

It’s obvious that writer/director Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2) and his team of co-writers had a truckload of fun adapting Master Shakespeare into a gloriously kitschy 3D garden spectacle. The film is replete with sight gags and playfully sketched supporting characters, from the scene-stealing frog nurse Nanette (Ashley Jensen), to Gnomeo’s cute pet Shroom and a cooped up pink flamingo Featherstone (Jim Cummings). There’s even a little dude running around in a mankini, Borat-style, as well as a cameo from the Bard himself (perfectly voiced by Patrick Stewart), while the likes of Michael Caine, Dolly Parton, Ozzy Osbourne, Matt Lucas and Stephen Merchant help round out the star-studded cast.

The final set of pipes in this joyous revamp is none other than Elton John, who raided his classics for the soundtrack as well executive produced the film with his partner David Furnish. There is something unbelievably cool about tapping your toes to Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man, and Bennie And The Jets while adorable little gnomes cavort about and ultimately wreak havoc on screen. If a Shakespeare/Elton John combo won’t see parents (and grandparents) happily sitting through some G-rated frivolity, then surely nothing will. Gnomeo & Juliet may not quite be visually or creatively up there in Toy Story territory, but its full of beans, cleverly written, and hands down the most fun you’ll have watching a garden gnome since Amelie.

Published on Concrete Playground
Australian release date: 17 February 2011

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