It took nine writers (not counting that story guy Shakespeare) to rewrite Romeo and Juliet into Gnomeo and Juliet, for the kids. And thus the old joke has finally been fulfilled of someone pitching Romeo and Juliet to Hollywood and hearing in response, "Couldn't they live at the end? I mean, it's kind of a downer." While this bit of CGI-animated pop pap will likely offend most Shakespeare buffs (like myself), it works overtime to stick in wan references to the Bard. It should have expended that energy figuring out to what end this story was being retold. It seems to be a plea for garden gnomes to get along, but perhaps I missed a metaphor someplace.
Above all, Gnomeo and Juliet turns out to be a not so stealthy advertisement, to a young generation, on behalf of Elton John. At first, I wondered, why on Earth is this lawnmower race between gnomes inexplicably set to “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)”? It's not even Saturday night. But it turns out that just about every scene features a freshly repainted Elton John hit (there are also two new Elton John/Bernie Taupin songs, “Hello Hello” and “Love Builds a Garden”). That's because—wait for it—John is an executive producer, and his life partner David Furnish a producer, on the film. In the face of all this blaring crocodile rock, Shakespeare seems like an afterthought, believe me. But it's all very sunny, and kids will no doubt happily glue their eyes to it.
As much as a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, this is Toy Story rehashed, but with garden gnomes, instead of toys, springing to life whenever the humans aren't looking. In Stratford-upon-Avon, there sits a Verona Drive duplex with a blue side for Miss Montague (Julie Walters) and a red side for Mr. Montague (Richard Wilson). The lawn ornaments on each side—presided over by Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine) and Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith), respectively—feud with those on the other side, much as the human homeowners bicker. But one fateful night, Gnomeo (James McAvoy) meets Juliet (Emily Blunt), a part-time ninja (don't ask). She's looking for a little excitement out from under the too-tight wing of her overprotective dad Lord Redbrick, and a smitted Gnomeo is only too happy to play along. (Adding to the oddness of it all is the fact that boyish Gnomeo sports a white beard, but that's lawn gnome style for ya.)
Nominally corresponding to the original play, Gnomeo and Juliet has a hotheaded Tybalt (Jason Statham); a compatriot for Gnomeo named Benny (Matt Lucas), for Benvolio; a water spout frog named Nanette (Ashley Jensen of Extras) as a Nurse to Juliet; and an unwanted suitor for Juliet in Paris (Stephen Merchant of The Office). At least the opening bit has the good sense to acknowledge, “The story you are about to see has been told before. A lot. And now we are going to tell it again. But different." There's truth in advertising, and it buys a little goodwill before the eventual arrival of unanticipated elements like pink flamingo Featherstone (Jim Cummings); cameos for Ozzy Osbourne, Hulk Hogan and Dolly Parton; the Terrafirminator, “a weapon of grass destruction”; and a total absence of poison and daggers.
The latter gets addressed head on when Gnomeo frets to none other than a Will Shakespeare statue (Patrick Stewart), who notices a striking resemblance between the crisis at hand and a tragedy he once wrote. It's hard to get too worked up one way or another about Gnomeo and Juliet: to paraphrase the Bard, it has enough wit to keep it warm (witness the gnome expression “May he rest in pieces”). And there's an admirable compassion for the audience in that the characters are already taking their bows by the 75-minute mark. Let's just say that it's the kiddie comedy that asks the question “What’s in a gnome?” (Answer: nothing.)
Disney's Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray 2D + DVD + Digital Copy Combo Pack packs plenty of value, mostly in the hi-def bells and whistles of its presentation. The 3D presentation is flat-out perfect, working like a charm throughout. Depth is exceptional, as promised, with palpable degrees of depth that extend far beyond foreground and background: the 3D definitely adds something to the film in terms of its animated liveliness, so if you're springing for the movie (and your TV has the capability), you'll definitely want to spring for the 3D. And as with the Blu-ray 2D hi-def transfer also included in the combo pack, the 3D transfer features blazingly brilliant colors, ultra-sharp crispness, detailed texture, and rock-solid contrast and black level. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix simply adds to the immersive effect of the 3D, putting you in the garden with all its babbling brooks and assorted spritely ambience, and wrapping the listener in the music, which has dynamism and warmth to spare.
The pint-sized collection of extras kicks off with “Elton Builds a Garden” (5:47, HD), exploring John's role behind the scenes and on the soundtrack with director Kelly Asbury, producer David Furnish, executive producer/songwriter Elton John, producer Baker Bloodworth, Michael Caine, producer Steve Hamilton Shaw, composer James Newton Howard, and guitarist Davey Johnstone.
Also on hand are two “Alternate Endings with Filmmaker Introductions” (4:05, SD); eight “Deleted and Alternate Scenes with Filmmaker Introductions” (42:25, SD); “Frog Talk with Ashley Jensen” (1:46, HD) with Asbury and Jensen; “The Fawn of Darkness” (1:29, HD) with Asbury and Ozzy Osbourne; and a “Crocodile Rock Music Video” (1:32, HD).
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
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Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
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Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer