Cine Review: GNOMEO & JULIET IN 3D
U – 84mins – 2011
Based on the original play by: William Shakespeare
Based on an original screenplay by: John R. Smith, Rob Sprackling
Screenplay by: Kelly Ashbury, Mark Burton, Kevin Cecil, Emily Cook, Kathy Greenberg, Andy Riley, Steve Hamilton Shaw
Directed by: Kelly Ashbury
Starring the voice talents of:James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Ashley Jensen, Michael Caine, Matt Lucas, Jim Cummings, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Ozzy Ozbourne, Stephen Merchant, Patrick Stewart, Hulk Hogan, Richard Wilson, Dolly Parton
The works of William Shakespeare have been recited, reimagined and repackaged incalculable times over the last 400 years, but I don't imagine anyone (who wasn't high as a kite) has ever thought it would be a legitimately prudent idea to retell the Bard's most celebrated tragic love story using garishly decorated garden ornaments! Well, they should have done, because Gnomeo & Juliet overcomes its pun-based premise to deliver a garden shed's worth of cheeky giggles and scholarly in-jokes. And y'all thought it was going to be a disaster!
Think Arthur and the Invisibles meets Toy Story and you're on the right track, as sentient gnomes from rival Stratford-upon-Avon back gardens – numbers 2B and NOT 2B (oh, where's the strike-through option when you need it?!) Verona Drive – feud over their different coloured headgear. But when blue-hatted Gnomeo (McAvoy) and red-hatted Juliet (Blunt) inadvertently fall head over fishing rods for one another, can their doomed love survive covert graffiti sabotage and high-speed lawnmower races?
It sounds as corny as a flying pig-shaped weather vane, doesn't it? I will admit that I rolled my eyes at the line “Let's kick some grass!” in the trailer, but rest assured that the army of writers (I count nine – and that's not including Bill Shakespeare as the inspiration behind this quasi-related retelling) raise their game far higher over the course of the animated escapades. Okay, so first and foremost it is a tragedy-averting kid's flick (Jensen's talking frog and Cumming's exotic flamingo being the most obvious panderers to the young demographic), but I was genuinely amused throughout, as the film's tongue stays firmly within its porcelain cheek.
The characters are cute, the set-up is audacious, the referential in-jokes are frequent (and dive into the Bard's plentiful canon – look out for Tempest Teapots and Rosencrans and Guildenstern Movers), but most importantly of all: the casting is impeccable. Parents will have a blast putting names to voices, particularly when Patrick Stewart pipes up in a cameo as a Shakespeare-shaped park monument ridiculing the notion that the age-old love story could possibly end any other way than tragically. Clearly he didn't see that this was a “U”...
In a CR@B Shell: Bright, camp and not afraid to take an acre's worth of liberties, but Gnomeo & Juliet is a surprisingly hilarious Brit-flavoured CGI comedy which will have you "cracking" up, provided you aren't expecting the RSC...