Monday, February 14, 2011

Some Brief Thoughts on 'Gnomeo and Juliet'

This past weekend I saw Gnomeo and Juliet. It's a film from the defunct banner under Disney, Miramax. Any of you who frequent Disney, etc. would know after one look at the trailer that it's the type of film I tend to avoid and, frankly, smack talk on a regular basis--it's filled with pop culture references, motormouth sidekicks, and just about every other gimmick in the book that takes away from what's important: story. However, even with those faults, I found the movie very witty, the characters very entertaining, and the entire thing a joy to watch.

I think the reason that I liked it so much in lieu of the gimmickry is that it is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, and therefore you aren't really looking for a story as you watch it. I know this is utterly contrary to everything else I have ever preached on the blog before, but it's true--since I know the plot of Romeo and Juliet and know exactly what will happen next, I am not looking for a story, and therefore the empty gimmicks were not a distraction, since there was nothing for them to distract from. In fact, the gimmicks were quite welcome--think of the film as more of a basic retelling of a Shakespearean tale as the backdrop for countless jokes, musical numbers, and hilarious characters. This was less of an actual movie and more of a circus, if you will--you don't watch it for the plot or emotional value, but for the sheer spectacle and great humor. Something like Shrek 3 (or 4 or 5 or whatever-the-heck number they're on now) falls flat because it's a "circus" that's trying to tell a story; while it has clever gimmicks and funny jokes, these are strewn across an attempt at a plot, which is meant to create emotional reaction in the audience. When this plot and the "circus-ness" mix inside the viewer's head, what results is a muddled mess of confusion and disappointment. The creators of Gnomeo and Juliet cleverly stepped around this problem by simply ignoring the plot aspect and replacing it with a well-known and purposefully predictable story.

So, I think that's the main reason I enjoyed Gnomeo and Juliet despite its constant gimmicks. Besides, the gimmicks were really funny. There were several characters, such as the rubber garden frog, a plastic Hispanic flamingo, and a small, angry reindeer that were very unique and funny and great to watch. Also, there were numerous Shakespeare references throughout the film that I most certainly appreciated, such as a moving truck which read "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Moving Company," a glue bottle labeled "The Taming of the Glue," and neighbor apartments with the addresses "2B" and "Not 2B". It was filled with back-to-back jokes, and I laughed out loud more times during that film than I have since Toy Story 3 . . . and that's a lot.

I am a huge Elton John fan, so I was ecstatic when I found out that the entire soundtrack was Elton John songs and the score was based on his works. The integration of the songs was great, and I especially loved it when they replaced the lyrics with garden gnome-related terms and it was sung by the characters themselves. Elton should be proud. Great stuff.

Needless to say, Gnomeo and Juliet is worth seeing. While it lacks a plot, it is funny with great characters and an Elton John soundtrack to boot. It won't be winning any Oscars or getting any raving reviews from the stuck-up critics or even a decent standing at the box office, but if you can manage to shut your brain off for a few hours and just let yourself be entertained, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

7 out of 10.

(Oh, and you'll enjoy the film much, much more if you read the play Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare before seeing it. There are many little inside jokes and nods to the play that are really cool and quite hysterical.)

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