A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Gnomeo & Juliet is a Shakespeare-inspired animated comedy that features some of the same overall themes as Romeo and Juliet, minus most of the bloodshed and the tragic ending. Although there's still serious enmity between the Montague and the Capulet gnomes, the violence isn't as prominent. A couple of gnomes do get smashed (or maimed), but most of the destruction is to the gardens themselves. Language is limited to insults and slang like "shut up," "codger," and "daft." Mature tweens who enjoy the story may be ready for the real play or more serious Shakespeare adaptations.
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What's the story?
You're probably familiar with the basic story of GNOMEO AND JULIET -- since it's based on the most famous tale of star-crossed lovers ever told -- but this version features English garden gnomes. On Verona Avenue, two houses owned by feuding owners Miss Montague (voiced by Julie Walters) and Mr. Capulet (Richard Wilson) feature gardens that come to life with groups of equally adversarial gnomes, led by Lady Bluebury (Maggie Smith) and Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine). One night, when they're both in disguise, Lady Bluebury's handsome son, Gnomeo (James McAvoy), meets Lord Redbrick's lovely daughter. Juliet (Emily Blunt), and they form an instant connection ... until they realize they're from rival gardens. Skirmishes between the two families cause the "star-crossed lovers" to rendezvous in a neutral garden, where an old plastic flamingo Benny (Matt Lucas) helps them see that their love is stronger than the enmity between their gardens.
Is it any good?
Young kids will love all the loopy gnome humor -- even if they don't get all of the jokes -- and it's a great way to introduce them to Shakespeare. The premise of the story may sound a bit off-putting at first -- Shakespeare's much-beloved tragedy via CGI gnomes? But, of course, that's what purists must've thought when they first heard about West Side Story, and that's one of the greatest musicals ever. So enter Gnomeo and Juliet with an open mind, and you'll find this adaptation quite original and amusing -- and equally (if not more) a tribute to producer Elton John as it is to Shakespeare. John's best songs -- including "Bennie and the Jets," "I'm Still Standing," "Crocodile Rock," and "Your Song" -- are all incorporated in the score, and the larger-than-life singer even recorded two songs especially for the soundtrack. The result is a familiar accompaniment to an even more familiar tale -- much like a Baz Luhrmann production for kids and parents.
Grown-ups familiar with Shakespeare's works will have fun noting all of the movie's Bard references (like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Movers, Tempest Teapots, and a line from Macbeth, to name just a few ) and watching the tragic tale transform into a comedy performed by some of Britain's finest actors and comedians. McAvoy and Blunt, it's obvious, are charming whether in the flesh or voicing animated lawn decorations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Romeo and Juliet such a timeless story. What's so fascinating about "doomed love"? What are some other movies loosely based on Romeo and Juliet?
Why couldn't the blue and red gnomes get along? Did the gnomes have understandable reasons for wanting to get back at each other? How else could they have solved their problems?
The William Shakespeare statue jokes that the original story doesn't end well; how did the filmmakers modify the ending here? Do you think it's OK to change a classic story? In this version, what motivates the two sides to come together?
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