Gnomeo and Juliet...

Although, like most people, I don't remember much about my very early childhood, I do remember my favorite television show from that era: David, The Gnome. I used to spend part of every day absorbed in his adventures as he cleverly thwarted evil trolls and saved the friendly creatures of the forest. The show extolled the virtues of respecting the environment, and treating all of nature's creatures with care.

Around the same age, when it was time to send me to pre-school, Mom opted for a school grounded in the Waldorf method, which emphasized learning through creativity and imagination. One of the techniques employed at the school was the creation of a fantasy world of gnomes, and we were taught to sew our own gnome dolls, and search for them in the grass during recess. Suffice it to say, I was quite convinced that gnomes were real when I was little.

Now that I'm all grown up, I know that I'm not going to spot a tiny little man in a pointy hat scurrying around the base of a tree, but I still have a soft spot for the little fellows. When I was in college, my roommates and I had a garden gnome named Schmaggegel who functioned as a bit of an apartment mascot. We used to move him around the room periodically, as a prank on our friend Abel, who found gnomes creepy. Sadly, Schmaggegel went to live with his owner, Katherine, but before we parted ways, she got me a gnome of my own, whom I christened Kiffen. When I moved into my current apartment, I brought Kiffen with me, but Mom found him to be hideous, and banished him to my bedroom, where he watches over my bed.

To satisfy my desire for gnome representation in a public area, Mom purchased me an art glass version of a garden gnome, which I actually find to be fairly hideous, but I accepted the compromise nonetheless. I never managed to find an acceptable name for him, but he hides among the plants of my indoor garden, on a window sill.

So, given my fondness for gnomes, when I saw an ad in the subway touting the impending release of
Gnomeo and Juliet, I was beyond excited. An animated movie about gnomes -- what could be better?!? As it turns out, however, based upon my experience seeing the film tonight with Justin, a lot of things could be better. My patience for the Romeo and Juliet-re-envisioned-with-garden-gnomes premise grew thin within a matter of minutes. I'd like to imagine a more interesting secret life for the garden gnomes of the world than that presented in the film. To be sure, the gnomes were cute, but I didn't really care about any of the characters, or what happened to them.

After getting a gander at the gnomes in 3-D, I was mostly ready to leave and get some dinner. Furthermore, I don't feel that the film made good use of the 3-D technology. Instead of using it to enhance the visuals in a natural way, as in
Up or to create an immersive experience, as in Avatar, the use of 3-D in Gnomeo and Juliet felt like more of an afterthought. It was pretty clear that it was just an excuse to sell more expensive tickets.

Also, the soundtrack was somewhat of a let down. Ads for the movie featured the fact that the film was scored by Elton John, so I was expecting something along the lines of the work he did for
The Lion King. Instead, the movie features a jukebox soundtrack of existing popular Elton John songs, wedged to fit into the narrative of the story. I couldn't help but feel misled by the advertisers. Even if you like gnomes as much as I do, I'm not sure I can recommend Gnomeo and Juliet.

If you're looking to entertain your kids, they might find it worthwhile (based on the ringing endorsement provided by the small child seated behind us at the theater), but even then I would seek out a non-3-D presentation and save yourself a few bucks. Better yet, take the money you would have spent and get a Pixar film from Netflix -- it would be a much better use of your time and money.

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