Jason Statham might have made a name for himself as the star of multiple big budget and hyperkinetic action flicks, but he’s also made periodical appearances in less serious fare. And one of these, Gnomeo & Juliet, has just hit Disney Plus.
The story is, of course, a variation on Shakespeare’s timeless classic Romeo & Juliet, except the setting is updated to the modern day, and instead of warring noble families the characters are two bands of garden gnomes – one red, one blue, both alike in dignity – constantly feuding to prove themselves. On a nocturnal mission to steal a rare orchid to prove the supremacy of their color, the scions of each faction’s leader meet and instantly fall for each other, and, well, you know the rest.
Statham has a significant part as Tybalt, the cousin of Juliet and one of the house’s most accomplished fighters, and here the crude lieutenant of the red leader and the one to take the most delight in humiliating his enemies in contests, even if he has to cheat to do so. His casually thuggish nature is tacitly referential of the violent roles that the actor’s known for, and isn’t the first time he’s played with public perception of him, having also had a major part in Paul Feig’s fantastic action comedy Spy, where his overt machismo and wildly improbable tales of espionage accomplishments resulted in him essentially portraying a parody of himself, and he was both in on the joke and clearly revelling in hamming up his filmic persona.
Gnomeo & Juliet is something of an oddity in the list of Jason Statham’s performances, it being his sole work in a family-friendly outing as well as his only voice role, and is also one of the few comedies he’s done. While it might seem lazy to build a story’s entire concept around a pretty weak pun, the movie is actually quite charming, hitting the main and most renowned beats of its source material with daft and entertaining nonsense.