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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Gnomeo & Juliet

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Animated characters are shown in a scene from the movie "Gnomeo & Juliet."
William Shakespeare's classic tragedy of star-crossed lovers morphs into an animated comedy in "Gnomeo & Juliet" (Touchstone), a slightly warped but ultimately winning film that offers good clean fun for the entire family.

"This story has been told before, many times," our narrator, a garden gnome in a pointy hat, tells us, "but never like this." Indeed not: what with talking statues, a philosophical flamingo, a love-sick frog and a rock-and-roll soundtrack by Elton John and Lady Gaga, we're definitely not in Kansas, let alone fair Verona.

"Gnomeo & Juliet" takes several strands from Shakespeare's play and weaves them into a clever morality tale wrapped around themes of good versus evil and the importance of family.

In modern-day Stratford-upon-Avon, grumpy old Mr. Capulet (voice of Richard Wilson) lives next door to grumpier Miss Montague (voice of Julie Walters). He prefers the color red; she, blue. He lives at apartment number 2B (get it?), she's also at 2B, but it's crossed out (and therefore not 2B).

Their rivalry extends to their backyards, where each maintains an elaborate garden filled with—you guessed it—smiling gnomes of every shape in their favorite colors.

When the adults aren't around, the gnomes come to life, a la "Toy Story," and proudly tend their gardens, keeping a wary eye on each other across the fence. Juliet Capulet (voice of Emily Blunt) stands atop a tower, pondering her Red-bound fate and longing for adventure. "I can't stay here tucked away on this pedestal all my life," she laments.

Meanwhile, Gnomeo Montague (voice of James McAvoy) is the big gnome on the Blue campus. He challenges Juliet's cousin Tybalt (voice of Jason Statham) to drag races with lawnmowers in the back alley. In "West Side Story" fashion, these intensify the blood feud between the young Reds and Blues, as they chant, "Let's kick some grass."

Fate brings Juliet and Gnomeo together in an abandoned greenhouse, and it's love at first ceramic clink—the result of their effort to kiss. "Will you build a garden with me?" Gnomeo asks. Family tensions and (literal) differences in color threaten to drive them apart, but a wise pink flamingo named Featherstone (voice of Jim Cummings) puts everything in perspective.

The voice talent in "Gnomeo & Juliet" is first-rate, and ranges from the mighty (Maggie Smith, Michael Caine) to the bizarre (Ozzy Osbourne, Dolly Parton). Patrick Stewart is a standout as the statue of "Bill" Shakespeare in the local park, who shakes his head in despair as the gnomes subvert his tragedy with a happy ending.

Directed by Kelly Asbury ("Shrek 2"), "Gnomeo & Juliet" is refreshingly free of the bathroom humor that dominates all too many movies for kids these days. Adults will enjoy the many puns and sight gags, from the "As You Like It" moving van and the "Tempest Teapots" company to Featherstone's various comic pronouncements, including: "A weed by any other name is still a weed."

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G—general audiences, all ages admitted.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.


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John Vianney: A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. 
<p>His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained. </p><p>Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. (Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.) </p><p>With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home. </p><p>His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day. </p><p>Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil. </p><p>Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.</p> American Catholic Blog The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold on to. –Pope Francis

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