People have a love for garden gnomes that is gnot gnormal. The colourful terra cotta lawn decorations pop up in everything from Travelocity commercials to R.L. Stine’s Revenge of the Lawn Gnomes to Coronation Street to the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets videogame and, of course, in tacky garden displays. Since ceramic gnomes were first manufactured in rural Germany by Phillip Griebel in 1847, these strange little creatures have carved out a pointy-hatted niche in popular culture.
This weekend, they take over movie theatres playing the leads in a reimagining of Shakespeare’s most romantic play. In Gnomeo & Juliet, two star crossed gnomes, voiced by James McAvoy and Emily Blunt, must overcome prejudice for their love to bloom.
This is probably the most gnometastic movie to ever hit theatres, but it isn’t the only one. Gnomes have had supporting roles on screen for years.
The most famous movie gnome is the hapless travelling gnome from Amélie. In the film, Audrey Tautou tricks her father into following his dream of touring the world by stealing his garden gnome and having a flight attendant friend send pictures of it posing with landmarks from all over the world.
The worldwide popularity of the film kicked off a resurgence of gnome love, and in 2002 International Gnome Day was instituted and is now celebrated on June 21 in a dozen countries. The travelling gnome also became a popular motif and was featured in the Matthew Good Band video for Anti-Pop, the videogames Half-Life 2: Episode Two and The Sims 3, and on the soap opera Neighbours.
The garden decorations of Gomeo & Juliet aren’t the first animated big screen gnomes. In Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Wallace the inventor installs gnomes in all the gardens in his town to guard against pests. Each garden gnome is equipped with a swivelling head and fire engine red eyes that light up when it senses rabbits or other garden invaders.
Gnomes are used to tragicomic effect in The Full Monty when Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) is distracted by some gnarly dancing gnomes during an all important job interview.
Also amusing are the airborne gnomes of Teenage Space Vampires, but the little creatures take a sinister turn in Slumming, a nasty horror film that is definitely not Better Gnomes and Gardens approved.