Featuring the voices of James McAvoy and Micheal Caine, the animation Gnomeo and Juliet manages to be childlike without being naive.
Gnomeo & Juliet
Director: Kelly Asbury
Starring: (Voices of) James McAvoy, Emily Blunt and Michael Caine
A deliciously eccentric burst of crackpot cartoonary, Gnomeo & Juliet looks hideous on paper yet somehow successfully marries the plot structure of William Shakespeare with the miniature world of garden gnomes and the classic music of Elton John.
A 10-year labour of love for John, who produced the film through his Rocket Pictures, the film roots itself in suburban Stratford, where the daily rage between warring neighbours Mr Capulet (Richard Wilson) and Old Miss Montague (Julie Walters) has spilt over into the secret lives of their colour-coded garden ornaments.
Here, championing the blue gnomes, in games of back alley lawnmower racing, is the plucky Gnomeo (McAvoy), while the feisty princess of the reds is a wardrobe adventurer called Juliet (Blunt). Naturally, the pair meet over a precious orchid on a moonlit night, and fall instantly and profoundly into forbidden love.
The stage is thus set for a tale that smartly follows the narrative beats of Shakespeare's great romantic tragedy (while pulling a handy audience-pleasing volte-face before the final moribund denouement), but equally allows itself ample time for set-piece digressions (a helter-skelter dog chase is one) and comedy routines from a supporting cast that includes Maggie Smith, Ozzy Osbourne, Matt Lucas, Patrick Stewart and Dolly Parton, among others.
And if the film doesn't quite have the narrative scope or ambition of, says Pixar's best or the Shrek franchise, it hardly matters. For what it is, and what the director Asbury (Shrek 2) has achieved against the odds, is a kids' animation that is satirical without being cynical, and childlike without being naïve. In short, a minor triumph.