Follow Us on Twitter

Gnomeo & Juliet - Review

Gnomeo & Juliet

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

AN ANIMATED take on William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet featuring garden gnomes was always going to have to work hard to avoid becoming a tragedy in its own right.

But Kelly Asbury’s spirited romp is endearing enough to appeal to very young viewers, even if their parents may feel they should have gnome better.

The story is, essentially, the bard’s timeless classic updated to neighbouring gardens in Stratford-upon-Avon and featuring feuding red cap and blue cap gnomes. Caught in between are love-struck Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and his beloved Juliet (Emily Blunt) as well as the oddball likes of an ornamental Bambi, a toadstool and a zany pink flamingo.

At the risk of sounding too gnomophobic, Asbury’s film isn’t without some fairly obvious flaws. Much like the Shrek franchise (the sequel to which he directed), it takes a fairly irreverent approach to its source material and throws in a few too many pop culture references.

Indeed, gnome matter what way you look at it, the fact that the film’s producer and song-writer Sir Elton John comes out better than Shakespeare himself is nothing short of a tragedy.

But then I guess we couldn’t really have expected a children’s film to honour the darker traditions and tendencies of the bard – although it didn’t have to be at pains to point out quite what a bad ending the original was!

The film’s lack of any genuinely stand-out set pieces is also a shame, as when compared to the best that the genre has to offer Gnomeo & Juliet feels quite average.

That said, the look of the world Asbury and co have created is very detailed and often quite beautiful, while the use of 3D actually enhances the overall feel and doesn’t feel unnecessary for a change.

A who’s who of British talent also gives their all vocally, whether it’s McAvoy’s spirited Romeo, Blunt’s feisty Juliet or support from the likes of Sir Michael Caine, Matt Lucas, Ashley Jensen, Jason Statham, Stephen Merchant and Patrick Stewart to name but a few.

The humour is such that it plays well to younger audiences, while the pop culture references, Elton John back catalogue and Shakespeare nods fly thick and fast for adults paying attention. A tight running time also means the film doesn’t outstay its welcome.

But a little more ingenuity in the set pieces and a little less Elton John would certainly have helped even more.

Certificate: U
Running time: 84mins
UK Release Date: February 11, 2011