Gnomeo & Juliet (B)
Parents: If you feel like you’ll blow your brains out if you have to listen to Hakuna Matata one more time, this movie offers relief.
I know what you’re thinking: how can I introduce my kids to Elton John’s music and Shakespeare at the same time? Okay, maybe you weren’t thinking that, but this movie pulls off that trick . . . almost.
Plot. The film revolves around two feuding groups of very English garden gnomes who come alive, à la Toy Story, whenever their owners are away. It’s the Reds against the Blues. “Red” Juliet (Emily Blunt) falls hard for “Blue” Gnomeo (the ubiquitous James McAvoy). With the help of a ceramic frog and a Spanish flamingo, the lovers sneak around so as to avoid upsetting their rival parents: Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine) and Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith).
Critics harped on the movie because it deviated from Shakespeare’s tragic ending – – although Shakespeare does put in a cameo as smug statue (Patrick Stewart, camping it up). There’s some shtick along the way: a gnome fight scene based on The Matrix, lots of butt-wiggling gnomes dancing to Elton John songs, and (okay, this one was annoying) a makeover montage. Snippets of Shakespeare’s dialogue are there too, along with most of the crucial plot points (Jason Stratham as an appropriately hateful Tybalt).
So why see it? Because it’s well-made, well-acted (c’mon, folks, Maggie Smith’s on board), and – – more than just about any kid movie I’ve seen lately – – it shows two people (okay, gnomes) falling in love. While other couples in kid movies tend to be thrown together by circumstance, these little gnomes choose each other. The scene where they fall in love is charming, and – – to kids – – it may come as something of a revelation.
Also, if you feel like you’ll blow your brains out if you have to listen to Hakuna Matata or Wheels on the Bus one more time, this movie offers relief. Its soundtrack is loaded with Elton John’s finest songs (the actual ‘70’s pop tunes, not the later Broadway stuff).