Rating: 3.5 out of 5
With its Toy Story meets Shrek approach, this animated romp feels somewhat derivative. It's all snarky dialog and whizzy action. But it's also silly enough to keep both adults and children chuckling.
Gnomeo (voiced by McAvoy), son of Lady Bluebury (Smith), is the leader of the blue Montague garden. Accompanied by his sidekick Benny (Lucas), Gnomeo engages in tit-for-tat warfare with the red Capulets next door. Then he meets Juliet (Blunt), daughter of Lord Redbrick (Caine), and it's love at first sight. Which sends red warrior Tybalt (Statham) into a rage. As they plot a secret life together, Gnomeo and Juliet are assisted by Juliet's frog friend Nanette (Jensen) and the garden flamingo Featherstone (Cummings). But can these star-crossed lovers find happiness?
Yes, the film is a riot of Shakespearean references and puns, including an appearance from the Bard himself (a statue voiced by Stewart). The witty banter and sight gags make the film feel smart and sassy, even though it's actually just goofy fluff. But the animation is colourful and clever, with garden figures that look both hand-painted and weather-worn, plus a real sense of menace in the action sequences.
Plotwise, the formulae are obvious. Like Toy Story, the gnomes only come to life when humans aren't looking, the action consists of heist-style set pieces and the scariest things are dogs and cars. Like Shrek, the female lead has secret ninja-like skills, the sidekicks are rather dim and everyone sings and dances to random pop songs, which come courtesy of executive producer Elton John. These include his timeless classics and also a few new tunes (written by John and Bernie Taupin).
All of these elements combine into a fast-paced, enjoyably ridiculous comical adventure romance with an exceptionally gifted voice cast. And the constant stream of deranged gags keep us entertained. After the especially lively opening act, things drag badly in the middle, and the big climax is somewhat over the top. The moral being that writers shouldn't mess with Shakespeare. And if they get to make a sequel, the filmmakers need to have something more original up their sleeves.
Facts and Figures
Run time: 84 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th February 2011
Box Office USA: $99.8M
Box Office Worldwide: $189.7M
Distributed by: Touchstone Pictures
Production compaines: Touchstone Pictures, Starz Animation
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 55%
Fresh: 65 Rotten: 53
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: Kelly Asbury
Producer: Baker Bloodworth, David Furnish, Steve Hamilton Shaw
Starring: Jason Statham as Tybalt (voice), James McAvoy as Gnomeo (voice), Michael Caine as Lord Redbrick (voice), Maggie Smith as Lady Bluebury (voice), Julie Walters as Lady Montague (voice), Patrick Stewart as William Shakespeare (voice), Jim Cummings as Featherstone (voice), Ashley Jensen as Nanette (voice), Dolly Parton as Dolly Gnome (voice), Matt Lucas as Benny (voice), Hulk Hogan as Terrafirminator V.O. (voice), Stephen Merchant as Paris (voice), Ozzy Osbourne as Fawn (voice), Emily Blunt as Juliet (voice)