With Elton John on the soundtrack, his partner David Furnish as producer, and Jason Statham as one of the voice stars, you might not be too sure what you are in for - in fact, Gnomeo and Juliet is slick, clever and funny, although some of the more adult references thankfully go right over younger viewers’ heads. Set in Stratford on Avon, the home of the Bard, this animated retelling of Romeo and Juliet features, of all things, garden gnomes.
It had to happen of course, with garden gnomes becoming such treasured kitsch items, but one might have expected something more folksey, whereas this is quite sophisticated. Gnomeo is a member of the Blues, in the garden of a house owned by a nautical gentleman named Montague, while Juliet is one of the Reds, in the garden next door, owned by an irascible woman named Capulet. That is all we ever know about the humans - as soon as they hove out of sight, the gnomes and other garden ornaments come to life like Andy’s toys, and resume their feud - for the Reds and the Blues despise each other.
Gnomeo and Juliet meet and fall in love to a cracking sound track (including Kiki Dee reprising Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, her duet with Elton), and make friends with a lonely garden flamingo, whose life partner departed with the angry wife of a divorced couple. The Flamingo, Featherstone, is voiced by animation voice veteran Jim Cummings, although you could swear it was Sacha Baron Cohen in Madagascar. Featherstone is one of the most attractive and lovable characters in the movie.
Jason Statham voices Tybalt, a roughneck Red and Juliet’s cousin, while the absent Mercutio is blended in with Gnomeo’s character. Gnomeo is voiced by the ubiquitous James McAvoy (there is no getting away from him these days) and Juliet by Emily Blunt. Other well known voices include Michael Caine, Maggie Smith and Ozzie Osbourne (as the voice of a garden fawn) - cheap it ain’t.
The urban setting is very cool, with the gnomes indulging in lawnmower races, and all kinds of garden features getting involved. Even the statue of William Shakespeare in Stratford offers advice to Gnomeo. My grandkids loved it, and my granddaughter (7 going on 16) thought Gnomeo and Juliet make a ‘great couple’. I doubt it will ever get greater praise than that.
I paid to see this movie with my own funds.