Shakespeare’s classic love story has been retold nearly 2000 times, so it may come as some surprise to know that it has never been told using those common garden inhabitants, gnomes. Okay, I know it’s not really a surprise however the idea is uniquely different from those before and it was this quirky take on the most famous love story ever told that encouraged the films highly regarded cast to take an interest in the project.
The brainchild of Elton John and the result of four years writing and three years animating, Gnomeo and Juliet takes place within two neighbouring gardens. These gardens are inhabited by the Blue Gnomes on one side and the Red Gnomes on the other. The two groups have been arguing since anyone can remember and spend many a day causing each other trouble from either side of the fence. Gnomeo voiced by James McAvoy is a blue and Juliet (Emily Blunt) is a red. After meeting in a neutral garden they fall instantly in love. However due to their loyalty to their own families their love is doomed from the offset and they are forced to rendezvous in secret.
Nearly everyone the world over knows the story of Romeo and Juliet; the story was never in question. It was what the writers and animators were able to do with the new idea. How they make the film accessible to children whilst still maintaining the tale’s iconic love story. Something that the Toy Story and Shrek series have each managed to do, with astounding success.
Gnomeo and Juliet doesn’t fail in its attempt to do this, it is an easy watch and makes fantastic reference to the parent story. However, it lacks a character group that the audience can become attached to. I know we have seen several sequels to Toy Story and Shrek and have had longer with the cast of characters. However from the originals of both of those films, you feel connected with those involved. Gnomeo doesn’t have the depth that allows it to be considered a potential classic.
The animation is brilliant however; the concept of gnomes being able to smash isn’t used too much and is craftily comical when it is. The underlying score of Elton John classics suits the films cheery tone perfectly and gives an upbeat atmosphere to the original tragedy.
There are a few surprise cameos and the majority of the voice acting is done well, there are a few odd inclusions, such as Ozzy Osbourne, however this is made up for by Mcavoy and a cameo from Patrick Stewart as William Shakespeare.
An interesting approach to the tragic ending is also undertaken, as this was a children’s film primarily, I was intrigued to find out how the writers handled this. So, not to spoil the new take on the story I will merely say it is handled in a child friendly way, but the way in which that comes about is not in anyway, childish.
Gnomeo and Juliet lacked the emotion I was hoping for, the comic element of the film partially makes up for it, while the animation and sometimes intelligent references to Shakespeare and his classics offers the adult element that it manages to skim the surface of. Not a film in the league of Toy Story by any means, but Gnomeo and Juliet takes a whimsical approach to a tragic tale and it should be credited for that. While you won’t have a smashing time, Gnomeo and Juliet certainly doesn’t go to pot.