Gnomeo and Juliet – 2011
Directed by Kell Asbury
Featuring the voices of James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Jason Statham, Ozzy Osborne, Maggie Smith, Patrick Stewart, Ashley Jensen, Julie Walters, Richard Wilson
Written by John R. Smith, Richard Sprackling
Now for the something I never wanted to see category: a film about Gnomes with British accents loosely based on Shakespeare and set to the music of Elton John. Now that I have exposed my biases, I will do my best to review the movie without them. The interesting thing about animated films these days is tracking how they are made. Gnomeo and Juliet was originally set for animation through Disney Pictures, until new Pixar head John Lassiter nixed the deal, and it was forced to scramble for other partners. What did Lassiter see that the previous head of animation did not? Might be the Toy Story similarity, you know, the gnomes come to life when no one else is around. I wonder, perhaps, if that it was executive produced by Elton John.
I remember about 20 years ago, when they released the movie Oliver & Company. The movie was pretty much an excuse to get Billy Joel some unneeded publicity that the radio stations were no longer providing. Then there was Tarzan, with Phil Collins unimaginative soundtrack, designed for the same purpose. The storyline is always the same: the artist, sans successful recording career, is now “giving back.” To whom, I am not sure. Curiously, this “giving” is tied to hearing their songs shamelessly reworked ad nauseam until all meaning is evaporated. No matter how many times this doesn’t work, they continue to try.
So here we have various Elton John hits worked in with new, unremarkable material (awful would be more accurate). All the while little gnomes say and do mean things to each other, perpetuating a grudge that the two, faceless neighbors have with each other. Awesome. Racing lawn mowers, silly pranks, British accents, with Ozzy and a little Hulkster thrown in. I really can’t say much about the movie, other than the moments seem tied together like patchwork to portray weakened Elton John / Bernie Taupin classics with tepid and maudlin new efforts. One featuring Lady Gaga with a horribly old sounding Elton is an embarrassment that would have never seen the light of day, were it not for John’s already amassed fortune of influence.
Will this movie be memorable to kids? All I can say about this is my kids watched it Saturday night without me, and I tried all day Sunday to get them to watch it with no success. They wanted Mega Mind, Despicable Me, Ramona and Beezus. This morning, I forced my youngest to sit through it, and she stayed in the room, torturing her cat, ignoring the movie for the most part. She tried to get me to turn on Phineas and Ferb a few times. It was a labor just to get through the movie. Work. For her and for me.
To be fair, there is nothing offensive in the film. No efforts to persuade anyone of any type of lifestyle. There is a gnome with a really bad bathing suit, but it is fleeting, kind of. There are different characterizations of Elton John, circa the 1970’s. I have always found that somewhat offensive. Mostly I think this movie is boring as most thing’s British. So, apparently, do my kids.