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Movie review: 'Gnomeo and Juliet'

**1/2 (out of four)

Two adjacent houses. In one yard, tiny garden gnomes with red hats. In the other, an enemy group of gnomes with blue hats. Can Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy) from the blue side and Juliet (Emily Blunt) from the red side find love despite rival clans? Can William Shakespeare’s classic tale still enrapture when it’s shrunken down and converted into animated 3-D?

The buzz: To call that concept a stretch is an insult to stretching. Also unusual: Jason Statham and Michael Caine participating in a family movie, even if all they’re contributing is their voices.

The verdict: Quite short and mildly appealing, much like a garden gnome. Nearly everything about “Gnomeo and Juliet” is straight-up OK, from the animation to the bits of cleverness that compensate for annoying animal sidekicks and wildly unnecessary pop culture references of films such as “Brokeback Mountain” and “American Beauty.” I’m not buying lawn ornaments as symbols of a happy home, but “Gnomeo and Juliet” has enough laughs to survive as it constantly gets in and out of its way. Which is probably the reason most movie try to have fewer than seven writers, ay?

Did you know? One of the film’s best running gags is a mega-powerful lawnmower called the Terrafirminator, whose ad screams, “Your lawn will be afraid to grow!” For people who don’t just want to cut their grass; they want to put fear into its heart.

mpais@tribune.com

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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