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February 13, 2011
Review - " Gnomeo & Juliet "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Gnomeo & Juliet
Directed by; Kelly Asbury
Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Jason Statham, Kelly
Asbury, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine

Toy Story meets Shakespeare

Because the gnomes in this film are garden gnomes (think
of that roaming travel gnome from the TV commercials) -
warring clans of red- and blue-hatted statues in
well-manicured yards behind houses owned by the
Montagues and the Capulets (get it?). They are tiny statues
that spring to life when no humans are near.

The swell-looking film finds blue-hatted Gnomeo and
red-hatted Juliet falling hard for each other after he spies
her wearing full-on ninja garb while she's on an illicit
expedition to secure a beautiful flower for her garden. They
must keep their love secret from their respective clans, who
have suspicions and long-standing misconceptions about
each other and work out their aggression via lawnmower
races in a nearby alley.

it turns out that these concrete and clay creatures are
perfect for Pixar-quality animation (the film was once a
Disney project but was rejected by Pixar's John Lasseter
when he assumed control of Disney's animation operation).

It makes no sense, of course, that cast concrete could
move so fluidly, but the Starz animators make it look real.

The voice talent is uniformly good and wildly varied,
encompassing high-brow stars including Maggie Smith and
Michael Caine as well as younger, hipper James Mc­Avoy
and Emily Blunt. And then there are pop culture icons,
including Dolly Parton, Ozzy Osbourne and Hulk Hogan. Hogan hilariously voices "Terrafirminator," a combination riding lawn
mower/urban assault vehicle that boasts the slogan "Your grass will be afraid to grow!" A good deal of humor is provided via
a hopelessly romantic ceramic frog and a pink, plastic lawn flamingo.

Gnomeo’s mostly UK cast really brought the lawn furnishings to life. James McAvoy’s Gnomeo is tough, sensitive and full of
charisma. His lady love Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt) is a delicate, sweet heroine with a biting British wit. Other memorable
characters include a plastic deer voiced by Ozzy Osbourne and Ashley Jensen as a hilarious lovestruck frog sprinkler.

There's enough comedy and charm to entertain parents and adults, giving Gnomeo the feel of a Pixar film. Instead of
incorporating formulaic Broadway songs, you'll hear such classic Elton tunes as “Your Song” and “Tiny Dancer,” and the
standout Gaga/John ballad “Hello Hello.”

Like the Shakespeare original, the plot revolves around the feuding Capulet and Montague families. But in this version, the
action takes place in the red- and blue-themed gardens of two bickering neighbors.

Miss Montague’s blue garden is home to Gnomeo, his pointy-headed buddy Benny and a very cute animated mushroom.
Juliet, Nanette the frog and garden bad guy Tybalt reside on Mr. Capulet’s red lawn. Despite the ongoing color battles,
Gnomeo and Juliet learn to love each other and eventually bring each side together.

The funny and clever script has multiple references to popular movies. This animated tale was a blast, and it mixed in some
jokes that children wouldn't get, like one gnome saying he was "going commando," a reference that went right over the kids'
heads. Of course, there are plenty of fun Shakespeare references (a passing truck bears the company name "Tempest
Teapots" - the address of the neighboring houses are 2B and Not 2B) and an appearance by the Bard himself, courtesy of a
Patrick Stewart-voiced park statue that insists the tale we're watching will be better if everyone dies in the end. Don’t worry,
this fair tale forgoes the original story's gruesome ending in favor of a few tearful moments (such as the backstory of Latino
flamingo Featherstone) mixed in with fast action and lots of comedy. The film even includes a lookalike Elton gnome.

The bottom line? Great animation, great
songs and a story that truly stands the test of
time. Gnomeo and Juliet is 3D, so there will
be plenty of sprinkler drops, dandelion petals
and wild lawnmowers flying right up in your
face. Elton and company definitely scored big
with this one! The 3-D is expendable and
doesn't really add anything except a couple
of bucks to the price of admission but, sadly,
that's the norm for animated family fare these

There's plenty of action, and it's all wrapped
up in a retro soundtrack of Elton John's
greatest hits including "Crocodile Rock,"
"Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting" and
"Rocket Man." It turns out that I had a lot of
fun watching "Gnomeo and Juliet." As
Shakespeare himself might say, all's well
that ends well.