The story of Romeo and Juliet has been told more times than just about any tale in history. I thought it had gone far enough when there was a modern day adaptation featuring the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, but apparently I was mistaken. 'Gnomeo and Juliet' is the latest entry for this Shakespearean cash cow, but this time it's intended for children.
'Gnomeo and Juliet' is the story of rival garden gnome clans known as the reds and the blues, who live next door to each other. Gnomeo (James McAvoy) is the son of the leader of the blues, and Juliet (Emily Blunt), is the daughter of the leader of the reds. The reds and the blues have been in a long-running dispute, causing each side to continuously ruin the other's garden. By chance, Gnomeo and Juliet happen to be in the right place at the right time, and it's love at first sight. Trouble erupts when Juliet catches Gnomeo in the act of attempting to destroy the reds' prized tulip patch. All out war erupts between the two rival clans and events occur that cause all of them to think Gnomeo has been killed. Both sides are shaken to the foundation and must decide if they can overcome their differences and end their long feud.
'Gnomeo and Juliet' is a flawed movie. For one thing, the pacing isn't very good, for a movie that was only around 80 minutes, it sure felt a LOT longer. It's also difficult to adapt the story of Romeo and Juliet into a film targeted for children. The original is a very adult story, with themes that children would probably struggle to understand or enjoy. I did, however, appreciate how it attempted to honor the original story with the inclusion of a talking statue of William Shakespeare who tells Gnomeo the story of Romeo and Juliet. Aside from that, I found the whole production to be very straight forward and predictable, not to mention very Elton John heavy (and not in a 'Lion King' kinda way)! Finally, I felt 'Gnomeo and Juliet' was trying a bit too hard to toss in jokes for the parents, as some were actually pretty inappropriate for a 'G' rated movie.
The voice acting was surprisingly good. James McAvoy and Emily Blunt do very well together and the supporting cast is also very strong. Toss in seasoned voices like Maggie Smith and Michael Caine as the parents, Patrick Stewart as Shakespeare, and Jim Cummings as the comedic pink lawn flamingo, and you have a winning voice cast. The film aside, they all do a great job making the movie as good as it can possibly be, if only the script had been a bit stronger!
Overall, 'Gnomeo and Juliet' is a film parents won't find terribly enjoyable, but kids should be entertained for a while. The story is pretty flat and predictable, and fans of Romeo and Juliet won't care for this most recent take on the classic story. But like I said, 'Gnomeo and Juliet' has a great voice cast and will keep the kids occupied for a while.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Gnomeo and Juliet' arrives on 3D Blu-ray as part of a three disc combo pack packaged in a standard blue case. The first disc is the 3D Blu-ray version of the film, please note that this disc is only playable in a 3D Blu-ray player. Disc two is the 2D Blu-ray release of the film, and contains all of the special features, while disc three is the digital copy/DVD copy of the film. Please note that this release has no 3D features, it does however feature a 3D trailer for 'Cars 2.'
'Gnomeo and Juliet' arrives on 3D Blu-ray with a fairly strong 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 release framed at 1.85:1. Disney has had a superb track record with their early 3D Blu-ray releases, and while this one is pretty good, it just misses the high quality bench mark set by their past titles.
First off, colors and textures are the strong point of this release. Everything from the bright blues and reds of the paint for each gnome, the green of the grass, and the blues of the sky and water are top notch. Texture is equally impressive in everything from the gravel of the street to the dirt in the yards. Noise and digital artifacts are virtually non-existent with this release.
The 3D elements are also pretty good with this release, but they could have been much better. For one thing, I found depth to be less deep and bottomless as it has been with past releases like 'Tangled' and 'A Christmas Carol.' It just doesn't quite stand out like it does in other releases. In addition to depth problems, a few issues I touched on in early 3D releases like 'Monsters vs. Aliens' resurface with this release, mainly in background smearing problems. I found that in many scenes the background appeared to be blurred and just a little out of sync with what was going on in the foreground. Ghosting is also fairly consistent in this release with objects in the background mostly suffering the ill effects. Having said all that, I still found the colors and textures to be very strong in 3D, and color dimming never seemed to be a big problem for me.
I know that after reading this, it may seem like this is a poor 3D presentation from Disney, but to be fair, the studio has set the bar extremely high, and this release is still well above average.
'Gnomeo and Juliet' offers up a pretty good 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track that does the job pretty well, but it also seems to miss the mark just a bit.
Dialogue is clear and centered throughout, but the main problem for me was the underwhelming power of the soundtrack. Rear speakers are underutilized in some of the more action-packed sequences, and the bass effects are very underused. For a film that features a great deal of music, I was expecting a track like that featured in 'Tangled,' where music is clear and has that deep, well balanced feeling. Unfortunately that's not always the case with this film.
As with the video, this isn't the greatest presentation and leaves you feeling a bit underwhelmed.
'Gnomeo and Juliet' comes with a fairly small collection of special features. All bonus content can be found on the 2D disc of the film. Here is what to expect from this release.
Overall, 'Gnomeo and Juliet' is a pretty standard children's film release. The story won't leave any lasting impression, and the likelihood of repeat viewing is very low, unless of course you have children. The 3D picture quality and audio presentation isn't the best we've seen from Disney with their early 3D releases, but it's still above average and mostly enjoyable. Add a limited supply of extras and this release comes recommended for families with children. Probably worth a rental at best for anyone curious about the movie.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.