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>> Monday, February 14, 2011

A tired tale? Hardly.

It was inevitable, wasn't it? That one day Elton John would insist on being part of a project that combined his loves of Shakespeare and garden gnomes. As executive producer for Gnomeo & Juliet, he's done just that - but he's not the only man behind the curtain in this fun tale of two gnome families duking it out. It also comes to us in part from director Kelly Asbury, who unsurprisingly also headed 2004's Shrek 2 - my favorite Shrek film to date.

The story itself is of course based on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. It's also based on Gnome Culture - surprisingly, we get no references on behalf of or referencing Travelocity. There are two families of gnomes - the Blue and the Red. Each color represents the owners who bought the ceramic figures, named Montague and Capulet.

The two colors it seems have been battling it out forever. They play pranks on each other and when the owners are away they have lawnmower races in the alley. While playing a prank one night on the reds (AKA the Capulets), a disguised Gnomeo (James McAvoy) runs into Emily Blunt's Juliet (who also happens to be in disguise and on a mission of her own). They fall in love almost instantly and it isn't long before they discover that they are, alas, enemies.

Whenever they get the chance, they tryst in a neighbouring abandoned backyard whose only inhabitant is a rejected pink flamingo named Featherstone (Jim Cummings). Other notable appearances come from Matt Lucas who plays Benny and Ashley Jensen who plays the wise-cracking Nanette.

What I really liked about Gnomeo & Juliet was the fact that the original 400 year old play was nothing more than a guideline. The writers realized it's been done before and that a simple translation wouldn't be funny no matter how cute the gnomes would be. There's even a comment on this within the film itself where a statue of Bill Shakespeare (voiced by Patrick Stewart) tells Gnomeo that his lovelorn tale sounds similar to a story he wrote and that "it didn't end well".

Gnomeo & Juliet gets an open door. It's funny, clever and isn't afraid to recognize itself as nothing more than a movie who's title is based purely and simply on a pun. However, anybody that knows me knows that there's nothing more that I enjoy than a good pun - and there are lots here (as well as a lot of quick references to other Shakespeare tales). A lot of people find garden and lawn gnomes creepy -but if their anything like these guys when nobody is around, I certainly don't mind.

*Stills courtesy of Miramax Films


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