I set out early Sunday morning with my 21-year-old son Christopher in search of plants to refresh the giant flowerpots James’ parents keep on their patio.
Christopher suggested red since it was his grandma’s birthday and the occasion falls so close to Valentine’s Day. We stumbled on some stunning red tulips and a couple of small cacti with bright pink blooms.
But before we did our planting, we took in the new “Gnomeo & Juliet” — a Touchstone Pictures film whose executive producer Elton John also provides much of the movie’s music.
As the movie was about to begin, a young boy sitting a few rows in front of us called out to friend who thought it was time to leave the theater. “The movie hasn’t ended yet!,” he exclaimed.
Apparently the previews for kid-friendly films like “African Cats,” “Rango,” “Hop,” and “Rio” were plenty entertaining for at least some in the crowd — and I must admit that they all look rather enchanting.
“Gnomeo & Juliet” (rated G) pits two competitive gardeners, and their gnomes, against one another. One house is red, while another is blue — and never, it seems, the twain shall meet.
The movie opens with one of many homages to William Shakespeare, who penned the gnome-free “Romeo and Juliet” long before the lawn mowers used in alley races by the film’s waring gnomes were invented.
Many of Shakespeare’s characters are there — Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Paris and such. But now they’ve got those pointy little hats.
The plot can only go so far before deviating from the original. As you’ve likely guessed or heard already — there’s no double tragedy as the film draws to a close.
Characters are voiced by all sorts of well-known performers, including James McAvoy (Romeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Michale Caine (Lord Redbrick) and Ozzy Osbourne (Fawn).
The ending of “Gnomeo & Juliet” is neater and cheerier than it needs to be, but we still enjoyed the journey to get there — which includes some witty dialogue and word play, fun arrangements of Elton John and Bernie Taupin fare, and unexpected characters like baby bunny statues and a pink flamingo.
A statue of William Shakespeare comes alive at one point to explain a bit about the way his tale of ill-fated lovers ends, but it may be lost on the littlest viewers — unless their parents are clever enough to turn the movie into a “teachable moment.”
“Gnomeo & Juliet” is entertaining enough on its own (although it does drag in a few places, and include some adult-geared humor that seems a bit tasteless) — but it’s best enjoyed as part of a broader experience with Shakespeare.
Think time spent reading child-friendly adaptations of Shakespeare stories. Spring or summer theater camps with a Shakespeare theme. A family trip to the Utah Shakespeare Festival – which features kid-friendly “Greenshows.” Attending “Southwest Shakespeare Company” productions.
Of course, it can be our little secret if you also run right out and buy your own copy of the “Gnomeo & Juliet” soundtrack.
Note: Spring and summer performing arts camps, including those with a Shakespeare twist, fill quickly — so don’t delay in doing that camp homework and getting your child registered before slots are filled for your favorites.
Coming up: Meet the youngest “Gammage Goer,” Monty Python meets musical theater
Film photos from www.gnomeoandjuliet.com