From an animator who had something to do with nearly ever great contemporary animated film comes a pretty punny hack “family” film that would cause Shakespeare to roll over in his grave, Gnomeo and Juliet.
Rumor has it that this previously owned by Miramax title had to be released theatrically under the contract Disney signed when selling Miramax, only to have Disney head John Lasseter refuse to let them stamp the Disney name on it because of its poor, less-than-Disney quality. After seeing the movie, I believe the rumor to be true.
Obviously based on William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Romeo and Juliet, Gnomeo and Juliet tells the story of two families of rival garden gnomes that come to life – a la Toy Story, which director Kelly Asbury just-so-happened to work on – whenever their owners aren’t around. The son and daughter of each family meet outside the normal social circumstances and fall in love despite their family differences.
Gnomeo and Juliet tries to take Disney animation in the direction of the pop culture-laden Shrek films – which Asbury also happened to work on – but it just doesn’t work here. The pop culture references of Shrek are fitting to that audience – the pop music jokes, the classic Disney fairytales references, etc. – but the ones in Gnomeo and Juliet are absolutely unfitting. Do we really need two Brokeback Mountain gnomes that wish they could “quit” one another? Or a frog reenacting the sexual nude-in-rose-pedals fantasy sequence from American Beauty? Or how about a foreigner that prances around in Borat‘s disgusting one-piece, man junk-exposing baiting suit? Not to mention several penis jokes? These things may have worked well in the R-rated spoof Farce of the Penguins, but not in a G-rated family flick trying to pose a Pixar film.
When the humor on Gnomeo and Juliet is not deriving from unfitting adult movie references, it is all pun – pun that is not only unfunny, but pun that kids will not even get, let alone laugh at. Gnomeo and Juliet is one of the first family movies I have been to in a long time where neither the kids nor the parents laughed at the press screening; everyone was quietly sitting, giving dirty glares to the screen, wishing the bulb in the projector would blow out. If hell is an animated place, I am positive it is exactly like Gnomeo and Juliet. In all seriousness, there is only one gag in Gnomeo and Juliet that earns a laugh, and a big laugh at that. It is so obvious that the filmmakers knew this was the only good joke because they literally run it twice in the movie.
3D is far from being perfected. The biggest complaint lies in the glasses whose lenses are so dark that they dampen the color and destroy the contrast. A large chunk of Gnomeo and Juliet takes place in during the night, so imagine how annoying it is to see an already-dark image made even darker through 3D glasses. Not only is it like reading in the dark, but without light you cannot see 3D – which completely defeats the purpose of 3D unless your purpose is to charge higher admission. I am sure Gnomeo and Juliet is only in 3D for the latter reason.
I am going to go ahead and predict that the 2012 Razzies give Gnomeo and Juliet a special award – if not for its plain and simple stupidity, for its bastardization of William Shakespeare, changing the story and claiming that theirs is “much better” than the original. Watching the worst four-hour community theatre production of Romeo and Juliet has got to be more entertaining than this 84-minute one.
Photo credit: Touchstone Pictures