Shakespeare’s play of young lovers and the challenges they face has been told and retold hundreds of times, but never with adorable talking garden gnomes. Putting all reverence for the original work aside, “Gnomeo & Juliet” is a fun, animated outing and given the movie’s young target audience the end is scripted differently from the original.
Clearly, this film is not for the literary purist. It is for someone who enjoys dialogue interspersed with clever references to other Shakespearean classics. It’s for someone who enjoys identifying who is “voicing” various characters (i.e. Michael Caine as Lord Redbrick) and for everyone who enjoys humming along to snippets of Elton John hits. It is fun for grown-ups and little ones will enjoy the molded cast, especially the talking flamingo and Gnomeo’s sidekick, “Schroom.”
Elton John is one of the many producers of “Gnomeo & Juliet” along with a myriad of writers (including a credit for William Shakespeare). Rising stars James McAvoy and Emily Blunt are the plaster-mold lovers. But let’s face it, the star power of “Gnomeo & Juliet” comes from all the pointy-headed, cleverly posed, red and blue figurines who are in no doubt somehow related to the very gnomes that grace your garden.
Reading to children – what a concept! William Goldman wrote both the book and the screenplay of “The Princess Bride.” An early effort by now-accomplished director Rob Reiner, this movie falls into the categories of action/adventure, romance, and comedy. Sword fights, grotesque creatures, and dangerous forests are interspersed with situational humor.
“The Princess Bride” opens with a grandfather (Peter Falk) reading to his ailing grandson (Fred Savage) a book that his father had read to him and his father before that. Throughout the telling of the fairy tale, the boy interrupts the reader of the fantasy, allowing just enough reality to keep the fairy tale adventure in perspective.
The princess Buttercup (Robin Wright in her first feature) and her true love Westley (Cary Elwes) part ways with the promise to reunite. While apart, Buttercup is kidnapped by a motley trio: Vizzini (Wallace Shawn), Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin), and Fezzik (Andre the Giant). It’s up to Westley to fight for his true love using swordsmanship and wit. Just to complicate matters, Prince Humperdinck decides that he will take Buttercup as his bride regardless of her wishes.
“The Princess Bride” offers good, old-fashioned, “Once Upon a Time” storytelling. The movie is almost 25 years old, so what is missing are the special effects common (and expected) in current movies. No matter. A good story is a good story whether watched or read, preferably with a loving grandfather nearby.
Be careful what you wish for. It’s not unusual for youngsters to wish they were older. (Really, at what age do people stop adding a half or three quarters to their age when asked?)
Penny Marshall’s direction of “Big” is remarkably tuned in to the sensibilities of Josh, a thirteen-year-old who makes the fateful wish “to be big.” Even though Tom Hanks was in his thirties at the time of filming, his youthful appearance made his unlikely transition to a management position in a Manhattan toy company plausible. Well, plausible for the oft-used screenplay plot twist of becoming someone different than who one is.
Young Josh (David Moscow) ventures to the city with his best friend, Billy (Jared Rushton), in search of a carnival machine similar to the one where Josh made his fateful wish. When the boys learn it will take the gaming bureaucracy six weeks to find a similar machine, they find a cheap motel for Josh to stay in until he reverts back to his “boy” size.
A chance meeting at the toy store giant FAO Schwarz sets the stage for a clever musical interlude performed by Josh and his soon-to-be boss, MacMillan (Robert Loggia).
Susan (Elizabeth Perkins), a driven account executive, softens to Josh’s naïve persona, the antithesis of a power-hungry executive “Big” is fun and Hanks is brilliant as a young boy trapped in a grown man’s body. Because of some “grown-up” situations, it may not be suitable for elementary age children, but the rest of us can marvel about what it would be like to make that wish — perhaps in reverse — and let our imaginations run wild.
Rebecca Redshaw is an author and playwright who worked for 25 years in the film industry in Los Angeles. Copies of her book, SOFA CINEMA: An Easy Guide to DVDs, may be purchased at the Sequim Gazette.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grading this week’s DVDs: the ABC’s
Mon, Mar 19, 2012
Politics, political figures and spies
Tue, Mar 6, 2012
Tue, Feb 14, 2012
And now, reality
Mon, Jan 30, 2012
Looking back on the year that was (Part 1 of 2)
Wed, Dec 7, 2011
Film buffs should revisit ‘Northwest’
Wed, Nov 2, 2011
Conspiracy theories played out on film
Tue, Oct 18, 2011
Mix-ups, marriage and horse management
Mon, Oct 3, 2011
Going ‘Grease,’ locally and on DVD
Tue, Sep 13, 2011
It’s All About the Music
Fri, Sep 9, 2011