Gnomeo and Juliet, or why I love/hate that play

Tonight, I went to see Gnomeo and Juliet, the animated version of Romeo and Juliet. But with gnomes.  And an all Elton John soundtrack.  w00t.

Ok, so I’m going to give this movie a 3 out of 5 (a la Netflix). Here’s why:

1) The movie is cute.  It’s the usual, combine witty writing with animation and get a movie that’s good for both kids and adults.  Nods to the actual play are sprinkled throughout — the owners of the houses are a Capulet and a Montague, at one point the ‘Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou’ speech is repeated, as well as special cameo by the author himself! There’s cute sidekick characters full of spunk and charm.  As far as kids movies go, this one is pretty good.

2) The main characters are pretty likable. Gnomeo and Juliet pretty much follow the script of the play, but they repeat the same story with charm. Plus they have British accents, so, win.

3) Despite this, they still are stuck with the same plot of Romeo and Juliet, a story that is beautiful in the way it is written.  I find the characters in the actual play to be annoying and whiny.  Romeo is head over heals in love with Rosalyn, then glimpses Juliet and decides to marry her. It’s a good thing their love story happens over a few days or he might have found someone else!

4) Shakespeare stole the story from an Italian story, changed the names, gave them British accents, added some flowery dialogue and BAM! made history. Classic story of white male appropriating others work? I think so.

But back to the movie.

5) The movie is also filled with those wonderful stereotypes of men and women.  Tybalt, the rough and tough Red gnome counterpart of Gnomeo is a gnome who waters a garden and guards a wishing well.  We are not supposed to like him.  So of course there are the requisite jabs at his masculinity — he’s a flower boy, he wears a flower, blah blah blah.  Because of course, if he appears to be girly, he is less of a man, and then it’s ok to hate him, right?

Then there’s the scene where Gnomeo and Juliet get ready to meet for the first date.  Some of it’s cute and funny (a gnome ‘shaving’ with white out…so good), and some of it is silly.  Juliet waxes her legs, lips, and I’m assuming the bikini wax was cut for ratings.  The thing is, she’s wearing tights. And as a gnome, this tights are painted on. So the shaving scene is just to remind us that, hey, she’s a real girl!

When Juliet stands up for Romeo, and admits that she loves him, she is glued to her tower. Glued. Because she can’t be trusted to keep herself safe.  Because, you know, girls can’t do that for themselves.  We are poor, helpless creatures who can’t make the right choices in life.  Ugh.

6) My final comment is that the only person of color (gnome of color?) is an Hispanic Flamingo. Really??? He couldn’t be an Hispanic penguin, or something like that? And of course, he has a thick accent that sounds as real as Mario’s.  Wonderful.

All in all, it’s a cute film, and a pretty good adaptation of the classic play.  It falls into the same traps as the play (hence the love/hate relationship with it), and reproduces gender stereotypes left and right.  But that aside, it’s fun.  Elton John’s soundtrack is awesome as always, and Nelly Furtado does a great remake of Crocodile Rock at the end. I wouldn’t see it again (and definitely not in 3D), but it’s a good watch for a rainy Sunday 🙂

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