Directed by Kelly Asbury, Written by Kelly Asbury, Mark Burton, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Andy Riley, Steve Hamilton Shaw, John R. Smith, Rob Sprackling, and William Shakespeare (play), 84 minutes, Rated G.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
Well, here’s an idea any studio would fast track--A revisionary telling of “Romeo and Juliet” starring computer-generated garden gnomes, set to the music of Elton John, and presented in glorious 3D.
The hits keep coming in “Gnomeo and Juliet” as squeaky parodies of John’s songs pump through the speakers and somehow reflect the not-so-tragic retelling of this classic tale.
As one Gnome so eloquently puts it, this story is very old and has been told many different ways. This one, however, is even more different. It’s the story of two sides of the fence--Red Garden Gnome and Blue Garden Gnome. Gnomeo, the blue gnome alpha male, falls for Juliet, the repressed daughter of the Red leader. It seems redundant, but in case you’re unfamiliar, the star-crossed lovers hide their love from their respective families, hoping to elope in a new garden across the street.
Crisis strikes when Juliet’s cousin Tybalt takes the war too far and destroys a priceless tree belonging to the Blues. In retaliation, Gnomeo attacks Tybalt, who is accidentally smashed in the process, and goes into exile.
By turning tragedy into comedy, “Gnomeo and Juliet" strips the Bard’s tale of its heart. Their romance isn’t palpable in the mess of gardening and pop-culture references. These attention-deficit characters numb Gnomeo and Juliet’s pain, which might be good for younger audiences, but an unfortunate parent will be bored to tears.
“Gnomeo and Juliet” is “Toy Story”-lite. Afraid to tackle tragedy, “Gnomeo and Juliet” plays it safe, pandering to the worst versions of children’s cinema. While other studios and filmmakers continue to challenge notions of the genre, Kelly Asbury goes for laghs. The animation is top notch, but with such a classic source, it’s as if they didn’t even try with the story.
Asbury resolves on having a good time, except her film isn’ behind hert. The characters are weak, the jokes are even worse and the garden gnome vehicle appears to be chosen to fit a forced rhyme.
"Romeo and Juliet" warrants endless retellings because of its tragedy. It builds its romance carefully only to leave the audience in pain, shooting for the heart and hitting the bull’s-eye. “Gnomeo and Juliet” asserts that a happy ending is better--though, if you don’t want to make a heartbreaking tale of romance, I suggest choosing a different story that sort-of rhymes with gnome.