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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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James Oldo: You’ve heard rags-to-riches stories. Today, we celebrate the reverse. 
<p>James of Oldo was born into a well-to-do family near Milan in 1364. He married a woman who, like him, appreciated the comforts that came with wealth. But an outbreak of plague drove James, his wife and their three children out of their home and into the countryside. Despite those precautions, two of his daughters died from the plague, James determined to use whatever time he had left to build up treasures in heaven and to build God’s realm on earth. </p><p>He and his wife became Secular Franciscans. James gave up his old lifestyle and did penance for his sins. He cared for a sick priest, who taught him Latin. Upon the death of his wife, James himself became a priest. His house was transformed into a chapel where small groups of people, many of them fellow Secular Franciscans, came for prayer and support. James focused on caring for the sick and for prisoners of war. He died in 1404 after contracting a disease from one of his patients. </p><p>James Oldo was beatified in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog Charity for the poor is like a living flame: the more dry the wood, the brighter it burns.


 
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