My father won tickets for a special preview screening of Gnomeo and Juliet in 3D. He called the other day to ask if we'd like them. He wanted to give them to Teddy as his birthday gift and, since the theater was only about 20 minutes from our home (compared to close to an hour and a half from his), we said sure. The screening was at 10am this morning at the Roxy Theater in Smyrna, TN.
We were, of course, requested not to try to capture the film in any media format. No problem. We even left the phones in the van. The theater has stadium seating (which I prefer) and we managed to get 4 seats together on the aisle. After our last attempt at the movies (Teddy & I going to see Legend of the Guardians), I suspected that we'd need to be on the aisle so as not to disturb the other patrons during the inevitable "Mommy, I've got to go to the bathroom"/Peter making lots of noise and needing to be taken out of the theater by either Rich or myself. I'm pleased to say that we didn't have to worry about any disasters because the kids were perfect! Teddy settled into his seat between Rich and I, watching with rapt fascination and really getting into the story. Pete was on the other side of Rich and the worst he did was trying to look over the back of his chair and having the chair "eat" him. Didn't bother him though. I think he thought it was a game.
Now on to the movie.
The whole movie was a 3D experience so they had us put the glasses on right before the opening title began to roll. Rich, Teddy & I wore our glasses but Pete wasn't too keen on his so we didn't fight with him to wear them. The movie started out with a gnome coming on stage to tell us a little about what the show was going to be about, warning us that it was a show that had been done millions of times, but not quite in the way they were going to do it. And then he started reading the prologue - the beginning of Romeo and Juliet.
The story WAS Romeo and Juliet, set in the world of garden gnomes and other yard decorations. Two next door neighbors didn't get along at all (an older woman and an older man) and the gnomes took up this feud as their own. The Blues lived in the yard of Miss Montague and the Reds lived in the yard of Mr Capulet, the homes of both being in the home of the Bard himself, Stratford-on-Avon. Whenever the home's owners were away, the gnomes came to life (much the way children's toys do when they are not around). Gnomeo is the only son of Lady Blueberry, the leader of the Blues, and Juliet, of course, is the only daughter of Lord Redbrick. Gnomeo regularly takes part in lawnmower races against the cheating Tybalt to an effort to prove that the Blues are better than the Reds. Juliet tries desperately to prove her worth, since her father thinks she's a delicate creature that should stay at the top of her tower in the grotto. And neither knows what will change their lives before night is over.
If you're familiar with Romeo and Juliet, you'll be familiar with the basic plot of the film. If you aren't... well, I don't want to give too much away. There are some definite changes to the story to make it more kid-friendly, as well as to make it fit better with the gnome culture they were designing. And the one thing that I was worried about - how to make it a kid friendly ending without it totally destroying Romeo and Juliet - was taken care of with the artful insertion of a statue of William Shakespeare (voiced by Patrick Stewart). All in all, I was heartily pleased with the movie.
Along with the two stand-out characters of Gnomeo and Juliet. there were also some wonderful supporting cast. Nannette, the water frog that resided in Juliet's grotto, was so brilliantly done. So much humor and the same out of help that Nurse gave Juliet in the original play. The other was the character of Featherstone, a flamingo that had once known love in the home across the alley, but lost his love when the couple that lived there divorced. He, much like the priest, kept the lovers' secret.
The music throughout the movie was fantastic. It didn't really surprise me, though, as Elton John was executive producer and many of the songs they used were songs of his. Some of the words were even adapted to fit into the gnomes world, which I thought was brilliant. I was humming along with most of the songs, as they were ones I'd heard a lot in my youth.
Finally, the voice cast couldn't have been better. Along with the aforementioned Patrick Stewart, there was also Maggie Smith and Lady Blueberry, Michael Caine as Lord Redbrick, Ozzy Osborne as Fawn (Tybalt's sidekick) and Hulk Hogan as the voice of the Terraferminator. I'll freely admit that those were the only names that I recognized out of the wonderful list, but they were far from the only great actors and actresses. I blame my non-recognition on the fact that I have a swiss-cheese memory when it comes to names. (Though many times I'll recognize a voice as someone I'm familiar with but can't place. That's when I kick myself for not knowing it when I'm finally told who it is.)
One of the absolute best parts of the movie were the little in-jokes that were added for those that know Shakespeare. They aren't anything that will spoil the movie if you aren't familiar with his works, but they do add a smile to your face when you catch it. I'll give just one example, because I'm hoping you'll find out the rest for yourself by watching the movie. When Featherstone's girl is uprooted from the yard by the leaving wife, the moving truck is Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Movers. It's far from the only jibe. And they're all equally fun.
The only quibble I have with the whole movie is the 3D. It wasn't bad, but it didn't seem to add much to the film. Yeah, there was some depth to the scenery, but it still didn't make me feel as though I was part of the action. It was just... there. By my thinking, it wouldn't have lost anything at all to be shown in 2D instead. (As Rich put it, he'd have been upset about having to pay extra for 3D if the tickets hadn't been free.)
Over all, I think this is definitely a movie that the whole family can enjoy together. Pete's two and Teddy'll be five next week and they both enjoyed it. There were a few times that Teddy got a bit upset because of what was happening on the screen, but I can't fault him for that. I'm a crier when it comes to movies myself. And it gave me a chance to snuggle my little boy and make him feel a bit better as we watched the movie. Who wouldn't be happy about that?!
In closing, if you're looking for a movie to watch after next weekend, you should check out Gnomeo and Juliet. I don't think you'll be disappointed.