Gnomeo & Juliet – Blu-ray Review

“The story you are about to see has been told before. A lot.”

If any doubts exist about whether Shakespeare’s classic romantic tragedy will work with garden gnomes taking over the cast of characters, they should be quelled with that one opening line of Gnomeo & Juliet. The very idea is just so preposterous that Shakespeare purists should be angrily pounding their fists on their desks in unison, but Gnomeo & Juliet, like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, actually works.

The Montaques and Capulets argue tirelessly in suburbia on Verona drive and the fighting spills onto their front lawns. The gnomes, Reds and the Blues, are constantly planning their next scheme in order to win the war that has been waging as long as they can remember. They spy through the fence to find out their enemies next move, and they hold daily lawnmower races to prove who is best. Tybalt (Jason Statham) is a particularly despicable gnome.

Our fair Juliet (Emily Blunt) is feisty and enjoys being rebellious against her controlling father Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine). He wants to keep her on the top of a pedestal, proudly displayed in the middle of their garden. With the encouragement by her (Nurse) Nanette, she sneaks away to pick a beautiful flower growing at the top of a greenhouse in another yard. Gnomeo (James McAvoy) spies her from faraway and is instantly smitten; he decides to go to her immediately.

As their love blossoms, the feud between the Reds and the Blues grows stronger, with the two of them stuck in the middle. Until what would have been the bitter end of the two, if this weren’t a kid’s movie. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Gnomeo seeks the advice of William Shakespeare himself. He playfully insults the great playwright and decides to change his ending.

Even with the changes to the story we all know so well, Gnomeo & Juliet oozes humor and charm. Blunt and McAvoy pour a great deal of heart into their performances, we forget that they’re playing porcelain lawn ornaments. The rest of the random voice cast includes such names as Maggie Smith, Ozzy Osbourne, Hulk Hogan, Patrick Stewart, and Dolly Parton, but it all works; especially Jim Cummings who plays a hopelessly romantic pink flamingo.

With the exception of two originals, all of Gnomeo and Juliet‘s songs are from the expansive library of Elton John, reminiscent of the key role that “Your Song” played in Moulin Rouge. Adding to the gorgeous primary colored animation, cute sight gags, sweet romance, and cheeky Shakespeare references, Gnomeo & Juliet is an 82 minute treat from start to finish.

Gnomeo and Juliet was gorgeous to watch theatrically and this Blu-ray transfer captures that experience perfectly. Every bright color, every chip on the gnomes, every blade of grass is beautiful. The sound is sharp as well. This is a great example of how Blu-rays should look and sound.

Elton Builds A Garden – This feature shows the key role that Elton John played in the production from start to finish. Gnomeo & Juliet is the first film produced by his production company Rocket Pictures, which was started with the help of Disney. He discusses his collaboration with his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin and their chemistry as they worked on the two new songs for the film. (5:46)

Alternate Endings with Filmmaker Introduction – There are two of them, presented in their storyboard format: All’s Well That Ends Well – A not very different take on the ending (1:56), and Alternate Dance Routine – which isn’t as good as the one that made it into the final film (1:53).

Deleted and Alternate Scenes With Filmmaker Introduction – There are eight scenes altogether, the most interesting one is a darker version of Romeo’s exile from the garden (42:25).

Frog Talk With Ashley Jensen – The bubbly TV actress (Accidentally On Purpose, Ugly Betty) is shown having a ball while recording her voice part as Nanette, Juliet’s nanny. (1:46)

The Fawn Of Darkness – This feature was my personal favorite, and it shows director Kelly Asbury talking about how funny he thought it would be to have Ozzy Osborne play a garden fawn. Ozzy talks a little bit about his role and we get to see him behind the mic recording some lines. Great stuff. (1:29)

Crocodile Rock Music Video – As performed by Nelly Furtado and Elton John for the film. (1:32)

Sneak PeeksWinnie the Pooh, Spooky Buddies, The Lion King, Epic Mickey for Wii, Phineas & Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension, Dumbo, Fox and the Hound

I was skeptical of Gnomeo & Juliet at first, but as soon as the film started, all fears were gone. This is a sweet, funny, wholesome (it’s actually rated G!) movie that the entire family can enjoy. How many of THOSE come around anymore?

Walt Disney Studios and Rocket Pictures presents Gnomeo & Juliet. Directed by Kelly Asbury. Voice Cast: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Michael Caine, Maggie Smith, Jason Statham. Written by Rob Sprackling, John R. Smith, Andy Riley and Kelly Asbury based off of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet.” Running time: 84 minutes. Rated G. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: May 24, 2011.

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