Gnomeo & Juliet less than phe-gnome-enal


Toy Story, Monsters INC., Shrek – all are examples of great animated movies that people of any age can enjoy. When I entered the theater on Saturday, Feb 12 to see Gnomeo & Juliet, I held high expectations. Not only was the story based off of a famous love tragedy, but who doesn’t enjoy a cute cartoon? Finally, an opportunity for gnomes to make a name for themselves.

The movie began with a small gnome in a big hat, reading off in a monotone the famed prologue to Romeo and Juliet. He is “interrupted” by a trap door on the stage, the curtains are drawn back to reveal the setting of the movie: A red and blue duplex in the London suburbs, the owners of which are feuding. Naturally, the gnomes of their backyard are also enemies, and compete against one another by obsessively caring for their owners’ gardens.

One of the first scenes in the movie is a lawn mower race, pitting the two gnome families against one another, similar to the sword fight in the beginning of Romeo and Juliet. The scene paints the gnome-Tybalt and the rest of the reds as liars and cheats while emphasizing Gnomeo as the blue hero.

Scattered throughout the movie are subtle allusions to original Shakespeare stories. In the first scene are two mailboxes, one labeled “2B” and the other, “2B” with a line through it. It took me a couple of minutes to understand the reference to the famous Hamlet line “To be or not to be.” The houses are also on “Verona Drive.” There was even a guest appearance by the Bard himself, who truly must be turning over in his grave.

Most of the reason I decided to see this movie was because I had read good reviews, and it is a cute concept: gnome love and tragedy, perfect for this time of the year. But when the lights went up, I was sorely disappointed. The idea had loads of potential to be a very “funny” and “creative” movie, but it seems that producer Elton John did as little as possible with the story and focused on the featuring of his own music in the movie.

Of course, what Romeo & Juliet spin-off would be complete without cartoon representations of Juliet’s nurse and Friar Lawrence. Both characters (a frog named Nanette and a flamingo named Featherstone) well enough represent their part, albeit annoyingly.

Gnomeo had trouble keeping their plot line original; granted, a tough task for a story based off of a classic – but the film fell down on the job when it came to being originally quirky. If a human enters the scene, the gnomes quickly freeze in whatever activity they are doing so as not to be discovered alive and mobile.

Truly the only “laugh-out-loud” part of Gnomeo & Juliet was the commercial for “The Terrafirminator,” the extreme lawn mower that the blue’s wanted to replace their broken mower. Voiced by Hulk Hogan, the mower “was a weapon of grass destruction” and would make your grass “afraid to grow.”

But then came the famed scene – gnomes dueling, Gnomeo and Juliet saying their final goodbyes as the Terrafirminator tore apart the backyards and targeted Juliet’s tower. When the dust cleared, showing the destroyed tower and Gnomeo and Juliet nowhere to be seen, the families put aside their differences and grieved for their children. BUT WAIT! What’s that sound? It’s Gnomeo and Juliet pulling themselves out of the wreckage and living happily ever after!

Shakespeare would never have let this happen!

In hindsight, expecting tragic deaths in a G-rated movie was probably my own mistake, but I had high hopes that Gnomeo & Juliet to be much more than it amounted to. I anticipated that this retelling of a classic love story would be appropriate for this time of the year – with no Winterfest or Valentine’s date, seeing true love die would surely lift my spirits. Not only did the main characters NOT die, but they made me want to!

Many reviews call the movie “adorable,” “creative,” and “funny.” One even said that “It’s not as bad as it sounds.” In the movie’s defense, I am not in its targeted demographic, but even still – Shrek managed to keep me interested; Pixar and Disney movies from the late nineties still today manage to make me laugh more than Gnomeo & Juliet did.

What has happened to the Disney image, that unlike one decade ago, the franchise is having trouble coming up with original ideas. I remember the days of Toy Story, and the magic of toys coming to life in secret. The days of Monster’s Inc., where scaring children was the job of monsters, until one little girl changed everything. But Gnomeo & Juliet not only takes and bastardizes a classic story, but crafts a movie that is completely forgettable.

But what I will not forget is the fact that I lost 84 minutes and $10 to see Gnomeo & Juliet, and the only thing that I took away from it is that if my backyard came to life similarly to the plot of the movie – I’d move to the city.


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