GNOMEO & JULIET

When Steve Martin made Roxanne, he radically changed the end by
deciding that “Cyrano gets the girl”, turning tragedy into comedy.
Here too is Shakespeare altered, allowing the star-crossed lovers to
live happily ever after. But of course the bigger alteration is that
the actors are garden gnomes, red and blue to identify the feuding
Montagues and Capulets (and also to make this a sly political
allegory). You will not see a more good-natured picture all year,
fresh-faced (if porous) and innocent. It looks like a kidflick, but
studded throughout are jokes for the grown-ups, including movie
references from Brokeback Mountain to The Graduate. There's solid
voice work from a cast that's all over the map. (Michael Caine! Ozzy
Osbourne!) There's a montage telling the backstory of a pink flamingo
that brings a lump to the throat a la the “marriage summary” in Up.
And the filmmakers even give the Bard his due by bringing him to life
(well, his bronze statue, anyway) and allowing him a chance to defend
his killing off of the leads in the original. If all those (Executive
Producer) Elton John songs seem on board as “the price we had to pay
to get the movie made”, their happy beats don't distract too much and
some of the altered lyrics are quite funny. And there's a lovely
moment at the end when, as if we've been watching a play, the
principals come out to take their bows. Recommended! — Jeff Schultz

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