Old story in new hats

Saturday, 19 March 2011 00:54 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Uditha Jayasinghe

Gnomeo and Juliet is everything a cartoon movie should be, light, humorous, slightly moralistic and of course with the essential happy ending.   Based loosely on the perennial Romeo and Juliet penned by Shakespeare it explores the lives of two gnomes who live in two gardens named Montague and Capulet. The entire cast and set is decorated in blue for Montague and red for Capulet so that the younger viewers will have an easier time following the story but the story carries plenty of lessons for adults as well.    

It took producer Elton John eleven years to get the project to the big screen and he is helped along with a host of talented voices including James McAvoy (Gnomeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Jason Stratham (Tybalt), Ozzy Osbourne (Tybalt’s sidekick fawn) and even Hulk Hogan has a part introducing the “Terrafirminator,” a massive lawn mower that brings events to a climax by exploding and making the two families believe that Gnomeo and Juliet are dead. What happens after that is for the audience to discover.  

The simplicity of the plot heightens the entertainment of the film. We have all heard the standard Romeo and Juliet so you think that you know what is going to happen but the anticipation of how the script writers have changed the story keeps you glued to the screen. Snappy dialogues, devious plots and conversations with the statue of Shakespeare himself will keep you laughing throughout the entire movie. The side comments by a plastic fish that wants to swim away but can’t, a red spandex wearing gnome that is a clear allusion to stereotyped flamboyance and a sassy cowgirl gnome will keep everyone in stitches. Lawn mower races are another “modern” addition and a good example of new twists that have been adapted into the traditional storyline.

The sequence of developments for the couple is innocuous enough. But Juliet is portrayed as a strong young woman with a very independent streak that is deplored by her father as it is loved by Gnomeo. The latter encouraging this characteristic will find a resonance point with many in a present day audience that makes us all empathise with these characters despite the lapse of hundreds of years and may retellings.

The way Gnomeo and Juliet are introduced to the audience is also distinctly different. Gnomeo being a typical guy is not spouting poetry and mourning as a spurned lover but getting ready to spread mischief and mayhem in a lawn mower race. When he is thwarted thanks to Tybalt’s cheating ways Gnomeo under cover of darkness and a guerrilla disguise sneaks into the Capulet’s garden to have his revenge. This triggers a series of events that results in him finding Juliet and their conscious decision to keep seeing each other despite the impossibility of their love ever succeeding.

A plastic pink flamingo with his tragic love story and a mushroom that is very much a faithful dog are the unlikely heroic supporters of the two lovers. The deep hatred between the two clans ironically is brought to head by Gnomeo’s good friend and almost results in his death. Desperately trying to avoid detection by humans, avoid breaking to pieces and dogs- the bane of all small people the plot runs hot and thick to its ending. I may also divulge that it is a happy ending and all the more fun for that.