Most animated features, including every last one from Pixar, are peppered with jokes and observations that fly over the heads of little kids. (If that weren’t the case, adults wouldn’t dig them so much.) That isn’t going to be an issue with Gnomeo & Juliet. A state-of-the-art digital fairy tale about two rival tribes of English garden gnomes (the reds and the blues), it’s a quasi-knockoff of the Toy Story films, with an energized cheekiness that’s meant to be trés Shrek. But most of the film’s comedy is silly, broad, and kid-friendly derivative: another riff on twirly Matrix fighting-in-the-air, eyeless gnomes who are exactly like the Toy Story little green men, a lawn flamingo who stole his shtick from Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots, and so on.
For adults, Gnomeo & Juliet lacks wit, but the gnomes, artfully chipped and scratched, have a nifty 3-D tactility, and the title duo makes for an off-kilter pair of romantic action figures. Gnomeo (voiced by James McAvoy), his young/old face framed by a white ring of beard, looks like the son of C. Everett Koop, and Juliet (Emily Blunt) could be the Little Debbie mascot. Gnomeo & Juliet is sweet and mildly touching, its feelings hinging mostly on a score of Elton John songs. (John is the film’s executive producer.) Every movie about cuddly dwarf statues in an English garden should have music this big. B?