Title: Gnomeo & Juliet

Director: Kelly Ashbury

Starring: James McAvoy (voice), Emily Blunt (voice), Michael Caine (voice), Jason Statham (voice), Ozzy Osbourne (voice), Patrick Stewart (voice), Hulk Hogan (voice), Dolly Parton (voice)

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Get ready for 84 minutes of Shakespeare on mushrooms! The 3D animated “Gnomeo and Juliet” is based off the famous writer’s 16th century play. In the opening monologue, a little gnome alerts the audience that this take will be a bit different from all the other versions. What the little gnome – and the nine other writers – forgot to mention is that this will blatantly steal the “Toy Story” concept. Now retreads are part of the process these days and this practice is accepted. With that said, the producers, writers and director better bring their A-game in the creative department.

After the monologue is completed, the setting of this story takes place in the connecting backyards of two upscale senior citizens. As they exchange insults when leaving for work, the one thing they do have in common is the pristine upkeep of their backyards. Both fenced in areas are decked out with tiny ceramic gnome statues. On one side we have the elegant blue gnomes. The other is the quasi-grumpy red gnomes. Once the respective homeowners leave for the day, the gnomes come to life and begin tending to their lands. Yet every now and then, the rival factions like to take subtle shots at each other. Whether it be in sabotaging ones flowers and/or partaking in the heated lawnmower races in the back alley just beyond the fence, the two sides are very competitive when interacting with each other.

The story glosses over all the characters so the audience can get a proper introduction. Yet the main focus is on the heralded son of the blues, Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) and the princess like daughter of the reds, Juliet (voiced by Emily Blunt). Both have a sense of adventure in them, which leads them to an unexpected meeting, when both decide to venture beyond the fence. It becomes love at first sight, but the obstacle of being a blue and a red, forces them to hide their passion for each other. Eventually, the grudge between the blues and the reds escalates, leaving the two lovebirds in a tough position.

It’s fine to do an alternate take on a revered story. Disney’s “Tangled” is evidence of that, for it managed to successfully execute the formula in an entertaining way. “Gnomeo and Juliet” does a few creative things and pays attention to the small details (no pun), when using its surroundings. Problem is the gnome characters were not the proper vehicle to helm this tale based on the layout of the script. You would think having nine writers, the creative lighting bolt would eventually strike somewhere. Sadly, the potential (if any) is never fully realized.

Audiences – especially the younger audiences – will chuckle in a few choice spots. A chuckle is all though. Put it this way, you know when something hilarious happens on-screen and the audience is still laughing to the point you may miss a few lines of dialogue in the movie? Well, this will not happen at all in this guy. In fact, it seems the writers were cognizant of that above practice in theaters and purposely added a buffer between jokes. Which is met with dead silence. Now that isn’t to say the jokes were complete duds, but they (writers) definitely needed to spend more time on the material in accordance with the animated sequence that accompanied these said duds. What is funny though, Ozzy Osbourne voicing a ceramic deer the size of a shoe.

Comparisons to “Toy Story” are natural since the gnomes and a other random ceramics all freeze when humans enter the frame. What this flick is missing that “Toy Story” had was more depth in each character’s persona. None of the ceramic statues – which also include a French frog and a Super Mario Bros. mushroom – had the charisma necessary to make this memorable. The chosen environment the characters are put in was never fully developed, therefore, not all that interactive. It’s a shame too, because random flashes of brilliance were on display and could entertain. The not-so intelligent Pink Flamingo is an example of things the story did right.

Overall, “Gnomeo and Juliet” needed more preparation. The final version looks more like a second or third draft. Maybe Touchstone Pictures sent out the wrong copy to theaters. The physical animation is worthy of the big screen but the story and creativity regarding the characters is not quite there. Which suggests this title probably should have went straight to DVD. This is a product that will not annoy you in anyway, but the flick never engages the audience (old and young). At least it’s short (again, no pun intended).

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

Gnomeo and Juliet
Gnomeo and Juliet

By Joe Belcastro

Joe Belcastro is an established movie critic in Tampa, Florida. As a member of the Florida Film Critics Circle, most of his time is spent reviewing upcoming movies. He also covers news pertaining to the film industry, on both a local and national level as well as conducting interviews. To contact Joe Belcastro regarding a story or with general questions about his services, please e-mail him and/or follow him on Twiiter @TheWritingDemon.

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