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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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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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