Gnomeo & Juliet: Garden Variety Charm
One bard's timeless tragedy becomes a multiplex's frivolous romantic comedy in Disney's CGI-animated filching of Shakespearean plot points, the secret anthropomorphized world of Toy Story (garden gnomes are the new toys), and the culture-referencing humor of Shrek. In fact, this cash-in enterprise is directed by Shrek 2's Kelly Asbury, who shares a co-writer credit with eight others, making it tough to sort out the blame for witless, outdated allusions to Footloose, American Beauty, Forrest Gump, and David Hasselhoff. Separated by a wooden fence in the English suburbs, two warring clans of magical lawn ornamentsthe Montagues and Capulets are now addressed only by the color of their pointy hats: Red versus Bluecan't stop star-cross'd love between bearded Blue hero Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) and Team Red's adorable stone maiden Juliet (Emily Blunt). Adding to the crackpot conceit, the soundtrack and score have inexplicably repurposed classic tunes by executive producer Elton John, which still doesn't explain the Latino pink flamingo. The script feels workshopped to death yet still hits only a single broad note of irony-drenched whimsy, but the voice-work sparkles and the action-heavy animation clips along fluidly. There's charm in the backyard, but it's still of a garden variety.
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