There are few things more classic than the tale of "Romeo and Juliet". The timeless love story has been read or seen in some form or another by the vast majority of educated audiences. But never like this. Never animated, acted out by gnomes. Ladies and gentlefolk, I introduce to thee Gnomeo & Juliet.
Gnomeo & Juliet is a cute kid's film, as unremarkable as it is. The gnomes are adorable and get into ridiculous situations, occassionally deriving laughs from their antics. Small children will find plenty to giggle at.
It's the rest of us who are in trouble.
As expected, Gnomeo & Juliet is an extremely dumbed down and painfully simple retelling of William Shakespeare's story. There's nothing wrong with that - it's a kid's movie, after all - but even ignoring the source material, the movie is deplete of intelligence and emotionally bland.
The movie is directed by Kelly Asbury, who helmed the hilarious Shrek 2. Unfortunately, the fact that it has nine writing credits - not counting Shakespeare - is evident throughout the production. It's all over the place in terms of tone and focus.
The romance between Gnomeo and Juliet is an afterthought for goofy situations featuring goofy gnomes quarreling with one another. Neither of the title characters, which are voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt, are very interesting; there's no reason to care about what happens to either of them. Of course, given that this is a kid's movie, the ending isn't nearly as tragic as in Shakespeare's play - which begs the question, why try to adapt a tragedy in the first place?
Gnomeo & Juliet has sprinkles of humor and is at times entertaining, but it never decides what it wants to be. It can't be all things to all people, and yet that's what Asbury and her army of screenwriters want it to be. Gnomeo & Juliet will entertain small children, but it is a production that was doomed to fail from the beginning.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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