Yes, I know. Kelly Asbury, director of Shrek 2, is bold for suggesting that moviegoers pay money for yet another version of Shakespeare’s famous play. For many, the majesty of the classic faded after numerous high school projects and reading quizzes. And, even if Asbury can create a respectable version of Romeo and Juliet, perhaps lawn gnomes aren’t the best vehicle, especially when compared to gritty movies like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Andrzej Bartkowiak’s Romeo Must Die (2000).
But, the crew of Gnomeo & Juliet (2011) knew all this. The film’s opening scene features a single gnome who explains that, yes, this story has been told many times before and that, yes, they are going to tell it again. But, this time, it will be different. And it is different. Never before has an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play featured the voices of Ozzy Osbourne and Hulk Hogan (for some reason). Not to mention the whole lawn gnome element.
Gnomeo & Juliet offers a pleasant and simple version of the classic play. The movie follows Shakepeare’s storyline relatively well, which is impressive given the animated cast of gnomes, clay bunnies, and plastic flamingos. Any large diversion from the original script is explained during the movie. In fact, the only questionable use of Shakespeare’s fame is the film’s portrayal of Shakespeare himself. The playwright appears as an oddly unlikable Shakepeare statue (voiced by Patrick Stewart) who, for some reason, doesn’t seem to care much about the lives of lawn gnomes.
If nothing else, the movie sounds fantastic. The smooth and upbeat music of Elton John (one of the film’s executive producers) is sprinkled with the vocal talents of James McAvoy (Gnomeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Michael Caine, Jim Cummings, Stephen Merchant, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Patrick Stewart, and Julie Walters. And, of course, Hulk Hogan, Ozzy Osbourne, and Dolly Parton lend their voices as well.
I recommend Gnomeo & Juliet. It sounds great and it looks great. The first ten minutes or so are a bit awkward and unfunny, but it’s easy enough to pass that time by counting the not-so-subtle allusions to Romeo and Juliet or counting the changes made to Elton John’s songs to better accommodate the lives of lawn ornaments. Make it a drinking game. Just don’t play in the theater.