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'Gnomeo & Juliet' reinvents Shakespearean romance

I must admit that, as I walked into Edwards Theater with my mother to see Gnomeo & Juliet, released Feb. 11, our expectations were low.

Having read the original play of Romeo and Juliet, I could not imagine how the tale could be applied to a group of garden gnomes without the result being completely off from the true play and a disastrous waste of time.

The tale opens with a brief background of the original play by William Shakespeare, followed by the introduction of the new story’s feud between two neighbors: Miss Montague (Julie Walters), who decorates her home entirely in blue, and Mr. Capulet (Richard Wilson), who prefers red. The two hate each other, and their red- and blue-capped garden gnomes act upon similar animosity while the homeowners are away.

One of the various ways each group uses to assert supremacy is through lawnmower races in the alley, where viewers first meet Gnomeo (James McAvoy). He, the son of Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith), is bright and confident as he prepares to take on his red-capped opponent, Tybalt (Jason Statham). However, he loses in the competition, and Miss Montague’s mower is ruined in the process.

Meanwhile, red-capped Juliet (Emily Blunt) struggles to be independent despite her overprotective father, Lord Redbrick (Micheal Caine). With the help of her friend, a frog ornament named Nanette (Ashley Jenson), she sneaks out of the garden to retrieve a rare type of orchid for her father.

It is there, at the top of a greenhouse where the orchid grows, that Gnomeo meets Juliet after a poorly thought-out graffiti mission against the Reds. Both are undercover, and therefore interact without the inherent hostility of rival gardens before the disguises are lost. Despite the major issue of feuding families, the two decide to continue meeting.

Not long after this first meeting, the pair is discovered together by Gnomeo’s friend, Benny (Matt Lucas). A fluke causes Tybalt to be smashed in an accident with Gnomeo, the latter presumed dead as well.

However, Gnomeo survives and is left far away, lost by a talking statue of Shakespeare (Patrick Stewart), facing a nearly impossible race home before Benny and the Blues wreak havoc on the Red garden.

Despite my low expectations going into the movie, I actually enjoyed it. The story was much cuter and more interesting than I thought it would be.

Starz Animation created a wonderful range of vibrant colors and realistic textures for the fabrics, plants and houses. Each gnome looked like real clay or porcelain garden ornaments as opposed to miniature humans, which I feel added to the effect.

In addition, the voice actors did a very good job portraying each character’s personality. They added their own unique twists and quirks, making the characters more likeable. The film loosely follows the Shakespearean play and incorporates subtle references to scenes and lines in the original. Some of the humor may pass over those who have not seen or read the play, but it certainly brought at least a smile to my face.

My mother and I were quite excited to discover that the executive producer was Elton John. He provided the majority of the music in the film, which was upbeat and entertaining. Each song was obviously picked for those specific scenes, adding to the whimsical or somber tone of each situation.

Another pleasant surprise was some of the voices featured in the film. Though not particularly prominent characters, the voices of Dolly Parton (Dolly gnome), Hulk Hogan (Terrafirmanator voice), Ozzy Osbourne (Fawn) and Star Trek‘s Stewart.

Though it did not reflect many aspects of Romeo and Juliet, such as the darker tone and somber conclusion, the film was enjoyable and allowed for a wide range of viewers, including young children, as suggested by its G rating. Director Kelly Asbury created a fresh, fun and overall cute movie.

Running at 84 minutes, Gnomeo & Juliet is currently playing in most local theaters. For tickets and showtimes, visit Fandango.

For more movie reviews, read the Feb. 24 article, ‘Unknown’ presents ‘bland’ story, information overload.

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