Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet

So, the CGI animated movie Gnomeo & Juliet came out to DVD fairly recently. I actually saw it in theaters with my wife. I really hadn't been expecting much from it. I had seen some trailers and it looked like nothing more than a cheesy kids cartoon that made use of stupid jokes and a public domain story. And I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Maybe I should lower my expectations for every movie I watch.

Anyway... Spoilers abound, but really there shouldn't be much to worry about, because I'm expecting you know the outline of the story, if nothing else.

So, contrary to my expectations, Gnomeo & Juliet is surprisingly faithful to the original play. Obviously there are some variations. The two "families" are instead an old man and old woman who are next-door neighbors and bitter competitors over who has the better, fancier and more elaborate garden. (Garden in the British sense, not American.) And, as is often the case in movieland, all of their inanimate objects are, in fact, animate. However they want/need to keep this knowledge from their owners, for some reason. However, they are just as adversarial towards the group in the other garden as their owners are to each other. It's kind of neat how the separation between the two groups takes on a physical form as a fence between them... What? Can't a guy like metaphors?

So, assuming you've been to high school or just appreciate Shakespeare, you know the basic gist of the story. Both families have a (mostly) dutiful heir and both families do their best to show the other family up. In search of this end, Gnomeo and Juliet at near the same time spy a rare flower in an abandoned lot across the street, and both take up secret missions to single-handedly bring the flower back, so their garden can have an obvious advantage over the other. This leads to what is one of the coolest scenes in the movie: Commando Gnomeo and Ninja Juliet have a playful, acrobatic dance/fight over who gets to keep the exotic flower.

That is one of the coolest sentences I have ever written.

Anyway, neither of them know who each other are and end up doing more than a little flirting. Until they realize who each other are and both make for home. As the story goes, they realize they both still love each other and try to find a way to work out how to unite their families, with the help of a lonely flamingo who has a heart-wrenching backstory. Who knew that kid's movies could be so deep?

Anyway, you know the rest. In the ensuing confusion people get hurt, people get crushed into tiny pieces, gigantic lawn mowers cause huge destruction, and Gnomeo and Juliet both die...

Okay, no they don't. They make you think they did at first, but since this is a movie for kids they end up miraculously saved. Heck, even Tybalt, the only gnome to actually be destroyed, is shown glued back together during the credits. Alive and...  uh... dancing.

I'd say that the biggest surprise was all of the Elton John songs. I didn't recall seeing any advertising that his music would be the soundtrack. Apparently he was the main producer, so it's fairly natural that his songs would feature. And, hey, I ain't complaining. If you gotta pick a pop star's music for a movie soundtrack, it's had to do better. A lot of the songs are covers but the newer artists do a decent job.

The animation is pretty good. I wouldn't say that it's quite at Pixar level, but it's certainly on par with Dreamworks. Though there were fewer fart jokes, but that one gnome in the mankini... *shudder* the few seconds he's on screen more than make up for the lack of toilet humor.

Bottom Line: Gnomeo and Juliet really is a very good family movie. Now, notice that I said "Family" movie. Sure it's a movie for kids, but it's one that most parents will like, too. So don't be afraid to rent or buy this one for your kids. Heck, you might just want to rent or buy it for yourself.

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