Gnomeo a no go, in 3-D
Watching Kelly Asbury’s film Gnomeo and Juliet is a little like falling into a box of Sour Patch Kids: excessively colorful and sugary sweet with a bit of sourness just barely below the surface. While the film entertains with its bright, cheery visuals, Elton John-fueled soundtrack and over the top action sequences involving tricked-out lawnmowers, Shakespeare enthusiasts will likely be disappointed by the film’s lack of reverence for the Bard’s original text, and by the often less than witty references to his body of work.
The film’s lack of adherence to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet goes so far as to eliminate Mercutio’s character entirely (or turn him into a wisteria, but even we admit that’s a stretch), and Tybalt’s particularly rotund midsection and fondness for naps severely diminish his aggression and love for battles on the lawn.
Early film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet often feature middle-aged actors in the title roles; in this version, a white-bearded Gnomeo leans in to kiss a young, rosy-cheeked Juliet, and we can’t help but wonder if the neighbors have found a sexual offender notice in their mailboxes.
The romances between Nanette (Juliet’s frog friend/nurse) and Paris (a dorky, horticulturally-inclined gnome) and Lord Redbrick (Capulet) and Lady Bluebird (Montague) are nice touches, and, although the flamingo Featherstone’s place in the original text’s plot is hard to figure out, he has some comic lines.
A shot of Nanette lying in a bed of rose petals ties in American Beauty rather smoothly, and the sexual innuendo between Nanette and Gnomeo’s mushroom friend was entirely over the top but completely entertaining.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Asbury’s film is the starpower behind it. Elton John was an executive producer and had a hand in the music composition, and he and Lady Gaga teamed up to perform two of the film’s songs. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt provide voices for Gnomeo and Juliet, and Michael Caine is unconvincingly evil as Lord Redbrick. The cast list doesn’t stop there; Jason Statham, Ozzy Osbourne, Hulk Hogan, and Dolly Parton contribute their voicing talents as well.
The starpower behind the film is slightly bewildering, and we couldn’t help but wonder why the film’s producers chose to spend so extravagantly on a big-name cast.
Celebrity names potentially attract an adult crowd that the film couldn’t draw on its own, but the lack of original Shakepearean language and relatively thin Shakespeare references don’t live up to the expectations that an adult audience would come in with.
To be perfectly honest, we didn’t realize that many of the celebs mentioned above were even in the film; we only found out after consulting Internet Movie Data Base (imdb.com) at the end of the film. Despite the over-priced, C-list support cast, the film clearly did not take advantage of the celebrity names in its advertising. We are sure that we could’ve performed the voice of the lawnmower just as admirably as Hulk Hogan, and for a much lower price.
Shakespeare aficionados will likely be disappointed by the film’s willingness to entirely overlook the original plot and language (they even mocked Shakespeare’s language a few times) and minimal effort to include the clever Shakespearian allusions us English majors have grown to love in such modern adaptations as 10 Things I Hate About You and Leonardo DiCaprio’s Romeo + Juliet.
For Battle Bot enthusiasts, however, the Terrafirmator lawnmower scenes will not disappoint.