Gnomeo and Juliet Review
The process of creating Gnomeo and Juliet, a GDI animated film retelling Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with garden gnomes, is as long and chaotic as they come. Originally destined to be a Disney movie, Gnomeo and Juliet started off right with backing by Elton John (who's music provides the musical back-bone of the film) and voiced by such stars as Ewan McGregor and Kate Winslet, but with Disney's purchase of Pixar, and the subsequent hiring oh John Lasseter, the film was dumped. Elton John and his studio Rocket Pictures kept going, but with no distributor, the film languished in limbo. Miramax Pictures picked up the film, then dropped it. Finally, Gnomeo and Juliet was picked up by Starz Animation, under the Touchstone Pictures brand, and distributed by...Disney. Go figure.
So after such a roundabout way of making it to theaters, does Gnomeo and Juliet stand up to the other CGI classics of Pixar, Disney (proper) and Dreamworks? Yes, and no. Beautifully animated, Gnomeo and Juliet feels like Toy Story's cousin, about a world of English gnomes on Verona St who live in different gardens of competing colors. The Reds hate the Blues (and visa-versa), and their lives are in opposition. One day gallant Gnomeo (James McAvoy) meets sweet Juliet (Emily Blunt). It's a years old story, and I wouldn't be spoiling anything by saying that Gnomeo and Juliet avoids the tragic suicidal ending of the original story for something kids can enjoy. They even crack jokes about how prosaic and unoriginal the story is, so there's a nice feeling of self-awareness to offset the cutesy feel.
So there you go. I liked the film. I would ever compare it to masterpieces like Toy Story 3, or the surprisingly touching Despicable Me, but Gnomeo and Juliet does a fantastic job of taking something that could be seen as stupid (who even likes gnomes?), and makes it sweet and adorable. The addition of Elton John's tunes, some visual gags relating to the singer, and the typical animal pals you can find in any animated film make Gnomeo and Juliet instantly comfortable. The cast alone, made up of Micheal Caine, Jason Statham, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Matt Lucas, and Ozzy Osbourne, should please any fan of English acting (and heavy metal, apparently)
Part of the reason additionally I liked the film so much where others will hate it is that Gnomeo and Juliet mostly appeals to children. There are some vague references and jokes for adults, but it certainly doesn't go risque as Dreamworks films, and there isn't the underlying seriousness of Pixar's greatest works. Gnomeo and Juliet is a simple children's movie with a very well-known plot line, a light-hearted feel, and is cute enough to keep kids and families pleased. It's nothing to remembered, but it's certainly not distasteful. If anything, it might make for a good jumping off point to Shakespeare's actual work, which the progressive minded out there would love to impart upon their children. Don't expect anything amazing, but with the right attitude, it's not nearly as bad as it could have been.