Gnomeo and Juliet is a pleasant, refreshing surprise in a sea of mediocre animated films. It takes a well known story, and spins it around with great garden gnomes, lawnmower races, and a funny flamingo. It really is a hilarious and smart take on Shakespeare’s classic tale of star-crossed lovers, and features great direction by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron), smart, funny writing and great music by singer/songwriting team Elton John and Bernie Taupin to help make one of the year’s best family films that everyone can enjoy.
The film follows the bitter rivalry of some garden gnomes from two neighboring backyards: the Red Gnomes and the Blue Gnomes. After losing a lawnmower race to Tybalt the Red gnome (Jason Statham), Gnomeo (James McAvoy) sneaks onto the Red side of the garden at night to cause some damage. Juliet (Emily Blunt) sneaks away from her over protective father (Michael Caine) at the same time to find a flower she likes and bumps into Gnomeo, after which the fun filled tale truly starts. What follows is an absurd tale of anthropomorphic rivalry and romance between many of the world’s most popular lawn ornaments that’s surprisingly faithful to the original story, minus the hot musical numbers and pink flamingos, of course.
Fellow editor and movie fanatic Chris Pandolfi raved after seeing Gnomeo and Juliet in theaters February, basically echoing much of the same sentiment I had after watching it from the comfort of my own couch. Here’s a sampler of what he thought about this animated take on perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous play (you can check out his full review right HERE):
“This movie is exuberant family entertainment – charming, clever, colorful, and brimming with energy. It’s also the funniest animated film since Megamind, in large part because it’s keenly aware of its source material. There’s a moment late in the film, for example, when the heroic Gnomeo, lost in a British public park, has a conversation with the statue of William Shakespeare. As the bronze figure listens, he begins comparing Gnomeo’s situation to one of his plays; he then goes on to explain how his version of the story ended, and he does so with remarkable good humor. What made this scene even funnier was that the statue was voiced by Patrick Stewart, arguably one of our best living Shakespearean actors.”
And it hasn’t lost a step in dancing its way onto Blu-ray, which looks absolutely amazing in high-definition, letting you see the fine texture detail on everything from the grass and flowers, to the ceramic look and chipped paint on the gnomes themselves. The sound is no slouch either, being presented in 7.1 DTS-HD, making for crystal clear dialogue, sounds, and classic Elton John songs spread throughout the movie. I also thought it was pretty cleaver how James Newton Howard used some of Elton John’s songs as instrumental parts of the musical score, especially “Saturday Night Is Alright for Fighting” working its way into the theme often.
The special-features are a mixed bag of good and so-so bonuses, such as “Elton Builds A Garden”, where they interview Elton John and some of the crew about how the film came to be and his musical contributions. There’s “Frog Talk with Ashley Jensen”, which is a barely two-minute clip of Jensen talking about her frog character in the film. “The Fawn Of Darkness” is another short featurette that shows behind the scenes footage of Ozzy Osbourne voicing his fawn character in the movie. Other features include the Crocodile Rock music video featuring Nelly Furtado and Elton John (more like a promo since it’s barely two minutes long), two alternate endings, six deleted and two alternate scenes all with filmmaker introductions.
With all the half-baked animated films cluttering the shelves out there, it’s nice to see an overlooked gem manage to shine its way through the grime. Gnomeo and Juliet is one of those films, and after first proving itself a true underdog in theaters, is now ready to take its place among your growing Blu-ray collection of new animated classics. It’s a fun, heart-warming take on the classic Shakespeare tale of rival clans and star-crossed lovers, animated to near-perfection with some great laughs, adventures, and romance that I highly recommend to anyone who ever thought Shakespeare was boring. Plus, this might be the perfect way to introduce the next-generation to the wonders of Elton John’s music – provided you’ve worn out your copy of The Lion King.
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