Gnomeo and Juliet (Kelly Asbury, 2011)

Gnomeo and Juliet addresses its familiarity from the onset – a pointy hat-wearing gnome speaks to the audience directly, which serves to establish that a long drawn-out prologue is not welcome. This self-referential awareness provides Gnomeo and Juliet with interesting laughs and avoids the major pitfall of a lot of recent animated films – the barrage pop culture references is thankfully minimized. Instead, Gnomeo and Juliet is concerned with adapting the more sordid elements of the Shakespeare play with family-friendly substitutes – Capulet vs. Montague violence is replaced with lawn-mower races, physical sexuality is shown through an elaborate orchid chase through a green-house, etc. Given the cushioning of some of the play’s grittier moments, there were some elements that seemed oddly out of place and dark given the initial tone the film embraces. But eventually, gnomes begin to crack and break, and subsequently, the film gets progressively sinister.

That is of course, up until the end, wherein all six (!) of the film’s screenwriters retreat to a calmer and less demanding conclusion.  The indecision as to where to take the film is quite apparent, with a half-hearted conclusion that makes it seem like the creative well was tapped. Not that Gnomeo and Juliet was bursting with unique ideas (a sidestory involving a plastic flamingo brings to mind a lot of the abandonment issues that were addressed in the Toy Story franchise), but there were formal elements to the development of the narrative that were admirable – that is until it comes to its final act.