With new dads Elton John and David Furnish on board in a producing capacity – plus a bunch of Elton classics on the soundtrack – this is a cute, family-friendly take on the classic Shakespeare play.
Gnomeo and Juliet are garden gnomes – see what they did there? – who live in neighbouring backyards on Verona Drive. The Reds live in one yard, the Blues in the other, and both tribes have been locked in a feud for as long as they can remember ... why can't they all just get along and live in purple paradise? So when blue-capped Gnomeo (voiced by McAvoy) and the lovely Juliet (Blunt) meet during a Blue raid on Red turf, it's love at first clink. But can their love survive the furious lawnmower wars to come?
It was inevitable that we'd one day see garden gnomes doing Shakespeare – and maybe this script was cobbled together by a milllion typewriter-trained monkeys. But as a gentle way to introduce a new generation to the brilliance of the Bard, it's not a bad start. Wordplay, puns and slapstick abound, along with the aforementioned Elton John numbers. And a lot of the jokes are terrific: there is a moving firm called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern moving firm; a broken gnome is repaired with The Taming of the Glue; and at one point, Gnomeo is carried away by a van for Tempest Teapots.
Of course, being a kids' film, both the romantic and tragic elements of the original play are toned down somewhat. And lines from, and nods to, other Shakespeare works are sprinkled throughout. The CGI animation is terrific – the gnomes really do look ceramic – and there's enough fun here to keep kids and their parents entertained for the duration. Recommended.