The story of Romeo & Juliet has been told a lot, but never quite like this. Imagine Shakespeare’s classic told by a group of garden gnomes, scored to the music of Elton John. How about a voice cast that includes Hulk Hogan, Dolly Parton, Ozzy Osbourne, and Maggie Smith? Strange though it may be, Gnomeo & Juliet is a clever, animated romp.
In a faceless English suburb, the owners of two row houses, named Montague (voiced by Julie Walters) and Capulet (Richard Wilson), dislike each other immensely, so much so that their lawn gnomes hate each other too. Dressed in shades of blue, Gnomeo (James McAvoy), his hapless cousin Benny (Matt Lucas), and the rest of the Montague family live on one side of the fence, a refuge of sumptuous flowers and shrubs with an old toilet serving as a centerpiece. Juliet (Emily Blunt), her chubby cousin Tybalt (Jason Statham), and the Capulet’s are deeply entrenched just a stone’s throw away, sporting a strict dress code of red and tending to an impressive garden of their own.
The independent Juliet leaves the yard to take a flower from a nearby greenhouse and meet Gnomeo. While they know such a relationship is forbidden, they seek advice on how to make it work from a plastic pink flamingo (Jim Cummings). It may be impossible, however, what with Tybalt constantly interfering and instigating.
Produced by Elton John’s Rocket Pictures, the film weaves a handful of the stars well known tunes into the narrative, along with a few new ones. Director Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2), effectively transforms Shakespeare’s breathless work into a gnome based story full of drama and excitement. Umm…I wouldn’t be lying if I said I never thought I would write that sentence!
While the screenplay feels labored (it is credited to 13 individuals, aside from Shakespeare), Elton John’s music gives the picture needed energy, and a distinctive thumbprint. However, while Gnomeo & Juliet is a clever, heartfelt and entertaining for kids and adults alike, it doesn’t provide anything particularly unique. Indeed, the animation is spectacular, and the voice acting is strong. The gnomes are extraordinarily well-crafted. Amazingly, the filmmakers have managed to make an entire world from what amounts to a postage stamp-sized pair of adjoining backyards. Common items are worked into the plot to great adventurous and mischievous extents. The voice casting, save for the miscast Ozzy Osbourne, breathes life into these somewhat odd characterizations.
The 1080p transfer has bright, fully saturated colors and edge delineation that provides a nice sense of depth. Clarity here is superb, with detail present in each and every frame. Yet another top-notch transfer from Disney.
The featured audio is a DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack that provides an enveloping aural experience, thanks to solid ambient sounds given free rein on the effects speakers. Elton John’s music sounds like a concert, and dialogue is always clear. An additional audio option is available in Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.
We get a rather light special features package for a Disney release:
- Elton Builds a Garden (1080p, 5:47): A look at Musician Elton John and his studio’s involvement in the making of the movie, with emphasis on the film’s score and Elton John’s new music that’s integral to the story’s development.
- Alternate Endings With Filmmaker Introductions (480p, 4:05): All’s Well That Ends Well and Alternate Dance Routine.
- Deleted and Alternate Scenes With Filmmaker Introductions (480p, 42:25): Alternate Opening; Featherstone’s Game; First Date — Alternate Scene; Game On; Gnomeo Exposed — Deleted Sequence; Wedding Ruse; Featherstone, Shroom & Gnomeo, and Gnomeo Meets the Weathervanes. These are presented in an unfinished “story reel” form.
- Frog Talk with Ashley Jensen (1080p, 1:46): A look at the voice performance of Actress Ashley Jensen, who plays the frog character “Nanette.”
- The Fawn of Darkness (1080p, 1:29): Casting Ozzy Osbourne against type for the part of the lawn deer character “Fawn.”
- Crocodile Rock music video (1080p, 1:32): Nelly Furtado featuring Elton John.
- DVD Copy.