Monday, June 27, 2011

Movie reviews: Gnomeo & Juliet and Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part One

I continue my summer of reviews (still working on my reviews of the Hunger Games trilogy) as explained here.

This weekend we rented a couple of movies. I watched Gnomeo & Juliet with the kids, and then after they went to bed The Hubby and I watched Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part One (actually, he slept).

Gnomeo & Juliet
I liked this movie! I tend to like animated movies, although I pretty much only watch ones that get good reviews.

It's pretty obvious from the title that this is a re-telling of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, set in a duplex and involving garden decorations. And Elton John songs, for some reason, but it's so joyful that we can't help but go with it. In one yard are the "blue" gnomes (they have blue hats), and next door are the "red" gnomes (yep, red hats). There is a rivalry involving lawnmower racing, setting up an escalating series of actions intended to "seek revenge" on the other side's yard.

Gnomeo, a lawnmower racer, is the "blue (queen)'s" son (she's not a queen, but she is the leader for some reason). Juliet is the "red (king)'s" daughter, and is supposed to stand atop a castle-shaped fountain, holding a rose and looking lovely. Her father is overprotective because he misses her mother, and he frequently insists that she remember that she's delicate. Because this movie was made this year, Juliet is of course a modern girl - tough and adventurous - and refuses to behave as though she is delicate.

What I loved most about this movie was the clever dialogue. It paid homage to Romeo & Juliet without clinging too tightly to the original. I enjoyed the references to certain scenes (as well as the many Shakespeare references, both background and foreground), and was also glad that the movie had the freedom to tell its own story. It uses a new voice and tone, and I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

In particular, I loved the scene when Gnomeo and Juliet met, as well as their "balcony" scene and the time they spent getting acquainted in the abandoned garden. What a "meet-cute" scene it was! They were both disguised, ninja-like, and she was trying to get an orchid from the abandoned greenhouse because she thought it would prove to her father that she is tough and able to take care of herself. It was an action sequence, with back-and-forth both physically and verbally. Nothing terribly original, since we frequently see this kind of "they-are-equals" set-up in modern movies, but still a fun ride. In this scene, I found the Elton John song distracting, though. I was thinking, "who is singing this?" and I didn't feel that the song's vibe matched the scene's pacing very well.

Their "date" in the abandoned garden was a pleasure as well, as they discover a shared interest in lawnmowers (stand-ins for muscle cars) and hot-rodding with them. Juliet is happily surprised to discover that Gnomeo neither tells her to be careful, nor is he threatened by her ability to drive the mower. A real man's masculinity wouldn't be threatened by a capable woman, after all - this is certainly a theme in the modern fairy tale romance! Anyway, the whole thing is as cute as we could hope, and then a lovable character is introduced to boot! My kids fell head-over-heels for the silly pink plastic flamingo. I felt my cheek muscles fatiguing as well.

Finally, I liked the way the movie handled the re-written ending. Of course, they had to change the ending - it's an animated comedy, after all (Elton John, remember?), not a tragedy. But they worked in a wink-wink about the change that I thought was very clever. Gnomeo has a conversation about it with a Shakespeare statue in the park. Shakespeare tells Gnomeo how it's going to end, and it's perfectly in Gnomeo's character to respond with "oh yeah? We'll see about that!" (It's written much better than that, actually.)

I loved the palette of the movie (bright!), the overall tone (joyful!), the updated characters, and yes, the music (with one exception, as I noted earlier). I don't want to wrap up without mentioning the animation of the facial expressions and movements, as well as the voice acting.

A winner! I think we'll end up owning this one!


Review: Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Wow, was this movie BORING.

I can't say I'm surprised, since the 7th book in the Harry Potter series (I'm a fan) contains a LONG portion where a LOT Of nothing happens. When I heard that they were turning book 7 into two movies, I wondered how they would do that, because what would happen in the first movie? That's why this is the only Harry Potter movie I didn't rush out to see in the theater. It turns out, my fears were well-founded.

They definitely had a tough task due to the way the story develops in the book. Dumbledore is gone, and Harry is left with a hero's quest but no idea how to even begin to accomplish it. What's more, the Death Eaters are hunting him down, so not only is Harry not safe, but everyone in his vicinity is vulnerable as well. He, Hermione, and Ron go into hiding (Hermione's uncommon skill with magic makes that possible), and sort of sit around for months waiting for some inspiration. A tough thing to film, I'll admit.

However, that's not the biggest problem I had with the film. No, that would be the pacing of the whole movie. This, I would say, was a failure.

The first part moves along rather well, and you would expect that the pacing would slow down for the heroes-in-hiding portion, and then ramp back up for some action sequences in the third act. There were action sequences, but the problem was that they felt slow, too! Slow, quiet, with stony-faced characters. A fight with Nagini, a visit with the strange Mr. Lovegood, a battle with Bellatrix Lestrange; these scenes were all very slow. It made for a movie that I don't plan to watch ever again - I'll just skip this one when I re-watch the series of films. And that doesn't even bother me in the slightest.

1 comment:

Margaret said...

Hey! You're writing again! Hooray. I actually liked the Harry Potter movie, but I'm not a huge fan of any of the movies because they sacrifice so much of the humor in the books.