Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gnomeo & Juliet Trailer Out

Go to: to watch it now.

These lawn ornaments are not your usual garden-variety gnomes.

For one, they are computer-animated 3-D objects of kitschy cuteness who come alive outdoors only when humans aren't lurking about.

For another, classic Elton John tunes such as Your Song, Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting and Crocodile Rock provide the soundtrack to their story.

Last, but hardly least, they are the stars of the Bard-inspired Gnomeo & Juliet.

The comical cartoon feature based on Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet has taken a long time to sprout. What was originally planned as a hand-drawn Disney film back in the early 2000s with the voices of Kate Winslet and Ewan McGregor was then acquired by the studio's art-house label, Miramax. Now, it is back at Disney under the Touchstone Pictures banner.

The person in charge of these wee creatures since 2006 is director Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2). "I really wanted to go at it from a fresh standpoint with a clean slate," he says. That included re-jiggering the script and hiring new voice talent. "All the beats of the original play are there," he says -- save for the double-suicide ending, of course.

Emily Blunt and James McAvoy now talk for the titular star-crossed lovers who live across the fence from each other. Speaking for Juliet's dad, Lord Redbrick, is Michael Caine, while Maggie Smith is Gnomeo's mom, Lady Blueberry. Other voice actors include action star Jason Statham as the villain, Ashley Jensen of Ugly Betty as Juliet's best friend and rock icon Ozzy Osbourne, plus cameos by Dolly Parton and Hulk Hogan.

"This movie takes place in the secret world of statues," Asbury says. More specifically, most of the action unfolds in the contemporary English flower beds owned by Miss Montague (Julie Walters) and Mr. Capulet (Richard Wilson of TV's Merlin).

"Gnomes are proud of the gardens they live in and will protect them at all cost," explains the director about the feuding factions borrowed from Shakespeare. "The blue-headed gnomes hate the red-headed gnomes." Meanwhile, the humans are oblivious to the one-upmanship going on and instead blame each other for any damage.

The exceptions to such quarrelsome encounters are Gnomeo and Juliet, whose outgoing personalities lead them to seek adventure beyond their garden borders. They meet, and it is love at first sight, set to the strains of Hello, Hello, a new song by John, who also is a producer, and lyricist Bernie Taupin.

Hollywood likes to repeat itself, so it is no surprise that other imp-sized beings are heading to the big screen, including Smurfs and troll dolls. But Asbury says the difference with his gnomes is that they exist in our reality, not in some fantasy land. "It is a place that is flesh and blood, not some myth, populated with garden decorations of all sorts -- whirligigs, frog fountain heads, pink flamingos and wishing wells. The world is as real as it gets."

- California Chronicle/ USA Today

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