HasRomeo and Juliet been done to death in the film world? As well as Baz Luhrmann's brilliant version, which largely stayed true to the script, we've had numerous R+J spin-offs, including everything fromWest Side Story toHigh School Musical.
No one, however, has ever attempted to recreate one of Shakespeare's most famous tragedies through the medium of gnomes...until now. We're not sure who came up with the idea of a gnome version of Romeo and Juliet, complemented by the songs of Elton John, but we have to give them top marks for originality. Throw in a concrete fawn voiced by Ozzy Osbourne, a frog called Nanette (in the place of the Nanny) and the Friar's replacement, a crazed plastic flamingo, and you have one of the most eccentric film set-ups we've seen for a while.
Unfortunately, the film makers seem too have relied to much on their extraordinary premise to carry the film, and much of the action that follows is disappointing. Uninspired dialogue and cheesy love scenes make Gnomeo and Juliet tedious, with little done to create a bond between the audience and the main characters.
Many of the jokes fall flat, although there is an absolutely hilarious scene involving an internet search for lawnmowers (you'll get it when you see it). There are also plenty of Shakespearean references thrown in for the adults - from the setting (Stratford-Upon-Avon) to the Tempest Teapot van that Gnomeo escapes on (storm in a teacup, geddit?) There's also a very post-modern moment when Gnomeo chats to a statue of Shakespeare about possible alternative endings to Romeo and Juliet - you can't exactly have the two main characters dying in a kids film, can you?
Voice-wise, the best acting comes from Ashley Jensen as Nanette and Ozzy Osbourne's hilarious turn as the fawn. Emily Blunt is an unusually fierce Juliet, but James McAvoy's Gnomeo is less convincing (he almost sounds embarrassed on some of the more cringe-worthy jokes). The rest of the star-studded cast includes Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham, Matt Lucas and Stephen Merchant, plus of course there's the music of Elton John. Hits such as Your Song, Crocodile Rock and Saturday Night's Alright all appear - mostly with lyrical alterations - as well as a duet with Lady Gaga (told you this film was strange).
On paper, Gnomeo and Juliet sounds like it should be unpredictable and hilarious. We certainly expected it to be when we walked in. Unfortunately, however, it failed to live up to our expectations - although it might worth watching just for that lawnmower episode.
Release date: 2011-02-11