WHEREFORE ART THOU, GNOMEO? @ 1 June 2011 05:05 PM
It's certainly a novel concept, despite the fact that Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet has been retold in almost every form, from West Side Story to The Flintstones. In the case of Gnomeo and Juliet, the story becomes one of lawn gnomes, the "red" and "blue" groups who live next door to each other in a British suburb.
Lawn gnomes and gardening are popular in the U.S. to be sure, but their is a significant passion and pride in gardens that is decidedly English. That doesn't mean Americans won't "get it;" and as a matter of fact, the film was a surprise box office hit domestically. Just pointing out that the tone, comedy and the cast is predominately English, which suits Anglophiles like me just fine.
It's a very funny film, not so much an animated film in the Disney Cinderella sense than in the Disney Jungle Book sense -- a collection of funny set pieces arranged around a simple storyline with some tender moments here and there. The film was released under the Touchstone banner rather than Disney, perhaps because it doesn't follow the Disney mold in general and contains a few naughty bits, like the one gnome who runs around in a Borat-like swimsuit.
Overall, it's a charming, witty romp, beautifully designed and executed (though I kind of liked the second alternate ending better than the one that was used).
The voice cast is excellent, but the stars are really the Elton John/Bernie Taupin hits that complement the story, including two superb new songs (John himself appears in a bonus feature). The songs don't seem clumsily shoehorned into the story as an excuse to use them; they fit remarkably well.
Sir Elton was reportedly miffed that the film was not given what he perceived as sufficient support, yet it did quite well anyway. I can't help wondering how much more of a sensation it would have been had it been released shortly after The Lion King, which would have capitalized on the new renown for Elton John and when his music catalog was at the perfect age for nostalgia and the fascination each generation has with whatever was popular two decades before it).
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