Gnomeo & Juliet Blu-ray review

Shakespeare’s timeless love story gets an animated makeover courtesy of director Kelly Asbury. Here’s Dave’s Blu-ray review…

In the 16th century, Shakespeare apparently sat down and wrote one of his many plays. Not just any play, this one was to become a love story like no other, that’s been adapted and performed many times over the centuries. It’s a tale, not just of love, but of honour and betrayal, vengeance and glory, passion and fate, that sees young love blossom and wilt under pressure from within and without. Anyway, enough of my lesson on Shakespeare.

When he wrote the play, I imagine that he sat there and thought, “I know what would make this play better, gnomes, and the music of Elton John.” “Thank, God,” is all I can say.

Starting with the admission that this story has been told before, Gnomeo & Juliet sets its tongue firmly in its cheek as we’re introduced to two feuding families with one of the silliest of jokes that made me laugh for far too long. I’ll just say, one family lives at 2B.

Of course, it’s not the families that we’re interested in. It’s the gnomes, the Blues of Montague and the Reds of Capulet. Just like the owners of their respective houses, they disagree about many things, but laddish Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and equally laddish Juliet (Emily Blunt) are destined to change that (because we know the story already).

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Before all this, though, we have to set the scene. With neither house getting along, there’s a sense of competitiveness between them, embodied in the lawnmower race. Brutish Tybalt (Jason Statham) is the bad guy that causes the Blues to storm the Red garden after he cheats in the race. Gnomeo does something that no gnome has done before, entering the red garden by stealth. Whilst Gnomeo wants to get in, Juliet wants to get out, on a mission to retrieve an orchid, defying her father’s orders and causing trouble of her own.

They meet over the orchid, fall in love, discover that they’re from opposing families and, as a result, their lives become much more complicated. Nanette the water frog (Ashley Jensen, in top form) warns Juliet that they cannot possibly fall in love, with a statue of Shakespeare (voiced by Patrick Stewart) warning Gnomeo of the same. But this doesn’t stop them, as they strive to overcome the odds, embroiled in a feud of generations, whilst spouting some familiar lines in unfamiliar surroundings and encountering some strange characters.

For those worried that their children could be irreparably harmed by the depressing ending of the source material, this film doesn’t leave us with misery, delivering a thoroughly happy ending.

Okay, it might not sound like the age old classic that you remember, but don’t let that put you off, oh literature lovers. Gnomeo & Juliet is very funny in places. I’m sure that some of the humour will be lost on younger audience viewers, but they’ll love the cute little characters and the fun story. Anyone who knows the proper play will lap up the various in-jokes, whilst revelling in its utter silliness, slapstick, over-the-top vocal performances. (Jason Statham and Ashley Jensen are perfect.)

With a running time of eighty-three minutes, it’s a bit of a shame that the film is so short, especially when it’s such a fun experience. It’s a tad disappointing that the emotional moments of the film aren’t as handled as well as they could have been. Whereas Pixar would have had the most manly of men shedding a tear, Toronto’s Starz Animation only manages to make you go “Awwww.” Suspense isn’t really handled too well either, which is a shame, as there are a few moments that should have had you on the edge of your seat. (Talking of Pixar, there are a few scenes and characters that will make you think Toy Story.)

Littered throughout with Elton John songs, including some rather bizarre versions of classic tracks and a voice cameo by the man himself, it does feel a bit self-indulgent when you consider that Elton John and David Furnish produced the film. This aside, the songs don’t feel shoehorned in and are often presented in a wonderfully whimsical way, helping the story move along.

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Accompanied by some serious voice talent, Michael Caine and Maggie Smith amongst the many you’ll instantly recognise, and cameos from people as diverse as Dolly Parton and Hulk Hogan (sadly, not teaming up for their classic Headlock On My Heart), the voice work is also very well done. Every actor takes their role seriously, whilst clearly having fun with the part. It may be a ‘children’s film’ but that doesn’t mean that the values are any less.

All in all, Gnomeo & Juliet is a ridiculously silly pantomime of a film and doesn’t suffer because of it. Children will love it, most adults with a sense of humour will find it funny, and you don’t get the feeling that the film is trying to deliver some cloying moral message. Sometimes, it’s nice to find a film that you can call a real guilty pleasure. This is one of them.

The Disc

The CGI is impressive and stands up to the heady heights of DreamWorks Animations and looks as good as some of Disney and Pixar’s productions. It’s constantly bright, clear, and crisp, with the Blu-ray often topping 35Mbps. The characters are cute, child-friendly and colourful. Nature is well rendered, too, with water looking as realistic as can be expected, and a variety of flora and fauna looking fantastic.

The problem of rendering realistic looking people is handled by showing them in soft focus or headless (not in the gory way.) The quality of the CGI isn’t unexpected, when you consider that Starz Animation had previously produced the CGI for the exceptional looking, and rather creepy 9.

Impressive visuals are accompanied by an equally impressive DTS-HD soundtrack that helps bring the film to life. Turned up, the background noises of the garden envelope you in a living and breathing world of sound, whilst voices and other special effects are exceptionally sharp.

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Extras, unless otherwise noted, are presented in standard definition, and include two alternate endings, with the filmmakers explaining that they tried many different ways to get that happy ending. Each is presented as a flipbook-style storyboard and both are variations on the dance routine seen at the end of the film.

Frog Talk With Ashley Jensen gives us a featurette on the character of Nanette and features Ashley Jensen talking about her role. It runs for just shy of two minutes and, predictably, doesn’t really tell us much, but lets us see Ashley goofing around whilst recording.

The Fawn Of Darkness is presented in high definition and lasts for ninety seconds. It features Ozzy Osbourne as the voice of Fawn, talking about his role, and a few shots of the man in the studio. As with the Frog Talk section, there’s very little to this piece.

Finally, we have the music video to Crocodile Rock, featuring clips from the film and performed by Nelly Furtado and Elton John. We do get some animation that didn’t feature in the film and scenes from the recording studio between Furtado and Elton. It’s really just a promotional trailer for the film.

The extras are a bit light on the ground, which is a shame. It’s difficult with a disc like this, as it’s obviously aimed at the young audience, but a Director’s Commentary, or some additional featurettes (especially given the range of talent that were involved in the film), CGI or production would have been a nice addition.


4 stars

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You can rent or buy Gnomeo & Juliet on Blu-ray at


4 out of 5