Mr. Capulet’s Garden Gnomes may be Red,
While Neighbor Mrs. Montague’s are Blue.
But even when Shakespeare’s words are spoken by a Pink Flamingo,
The Bard’s message of Love and Acceptance still rings true.
In Gnomeo & Juliet, the ongoing feud between rival neighbors plays out on the well manicured lawns of two households both alike in dignity in nameless British suburbia (as opposed to fair Verona) where Touchstone Pictures lays their animated scene in 2011’s upbeat interpretation of the Bard.
Battling their red-capped opponents including the bullying Tybalt (Jason Statham) on the other side of the fence in Mr. Capulet’s yard, the blue hat-adorned garden gnomes of Mrs. Montague – led by Romeo (James McAvoy) – engage in lawnmower races by day and escalating pranks by night to try and keep up their lawn ”cred.”
Tired of being literally placed on a pedestal by her overprotective father (Michael Caine), Emily Blunt is eager to prove that her Juliet Capulet is far from delicate by embarking on a mission to kick some grass despite being made of glass.
Accessorizing with a ninja black sock to hide her natural red, once she wanders away from the watchful eye of her gnome nonsense father only to fall under the admiring gaze of Gnomeo, Juliet’s stealthy search for an orchid quickly blooms into a secret garden of romance.
Discovering that their glass heart’s only love has sprung from their neighboring lawn’s only hate, the two sworn enemies – alike except in hat hue – must decide if they can love based not on the color of their caps but the content of their CGI character in this flawless high definition transfer of the theatrical hit.
Replacing apothecary potions with pop culture references run amok and tongue-twisting iambic pentameter with the tuneful pop songs of Elton John, Disney offers us a sunshiny bright, floral-colored staging of Shakespeare’s originally tragic tale of woe centering on “Juliet and her Romeo.”
From a sassy water-squirting frog now on call for the nurse and a pink flamingo standing in for Friar Tuck, this years-in-the-making send up of the Bard trades in Juliet’s “happy dagger” for an overall happy tone.
Infusing the Pixar-like animated cast comprised of ordinarily inanimate objects with DreamWorks style double-entendre filled dialogue, Gnomeo’s screenwriters give us an endless amount of somethings rather than settling for a plot in which there’s much ado about nothing.
Though even Shrek 2 helmer Kelly Asbury can’t smooth out the rough transitions between far too many contemporary grown-up movie spoofs that reference everything from American Beauty to Brokeback Mountain to Forrest Gump, luckily the rapid-fire pacing and rat-a-tat wit of the delightfully well-intentioned Gnomeo & Juliet hits more often than it misses.
And regardless of the fact that the ambitiously eye-popping endeavor was literally and figuratively a little too all over the place for its own good – having changed hands, studios and countries over a handful of years – the vital lesson of tolerance from the Bard’s source material ensures that much like a rose, a Romeo by any other name still smells as sweet.
In other words -- as you like it -- all’s well that ends well once again for Shakespeare garden gnomes in love.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.