Well, more like a deceitful dad.
Let me explain: I wanted Dash to watch Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss with me for this review, but I knew there’d be no way if he knew the full title or true plot. I told him it was simply called Romeo & Juliet, and it was about two seals who wanted to be “friends” but their families wouldn’t allow it.
I still sensed some reluctance, but after some additional cajoling during our recent snowpocalypse in the Northeast, he gave in.
For those who need a refresher course from their Cliffs Notes, Romeo & Juliet tells the story of two warring families, the Montagues and the Capulets. One day, lovelorn Montague seal Romeo (Daniel Trippett) falls for Capulet seal Juliet (Tricia Trippett), but they must keep their forbidden love a secret – not only from the rival families, but also from a boorish elephant seal Prince (Phil Nibbelink) who wishes to make Juliet his own.
Like A Fish Tale, Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss is an interesting detour from the big-budget animated blockbusters put out by Pixar, DreamWorks, etc. But also like Fish Tale, Romeo & Juliet’s blend of traditional-looking 2D characters with blatantly computer-generated scenery is an ill fit (in addition to writing and directing R&J:SWAK, former Disney animator Phil Nibbelink animated the entire film himself by computer). The quality ultimately falls somewhere between a Saturday morning cartoon and a Disney feature.
In terms of the storytelling: The film’s narrative is a bit underwhelming and flat, and many of the jokes and punchlines are derivative. (As adults we’ve heard them all before, though kids will probably think they’re hysterical.) There are also generous twists on quotes from Romeo & Juliet (“A fish of any color would smell just as sweet”) and other Shakespeare works such as Hamlet and Macbeth.
For the sake of a G-rated kids’ movie, Nibbelink takes liberties with the fates of the main characters (spoiler alert: Romeo and Juliet don’t die at the end), although we’re to believe that Mercutio (Chip Albers) meets the same fate as in the play (P.S.: He comes back, too). The last act gets dark in tone and visuals – though no darker than any Disney classic – including Juliet drinking the potion that makes her appear dead (which may need some explaining to younger viewers).
I’m wavering between liking or merely tolerating Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss, because it depends on a larger question that plagues the film: Who’s it for?
Boys? Too much lovey-kissy.
Little children? Much like Shakespeare’s play, the film’s subject matter is a bit heavy: fighting, dying, pretending to die, etc.
Adults? You probably need at least a passing knowledge of Romeo & Juliet (and maybe other Shakespeare works) to fully appreciate the story and a healthy portion of the dialogue/jokes.
While Nibbelink should be commended for taking on the Bard and making a G-rated film when such films are a rarity, Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss ultimately misfires in both finding and captivating an audience. When it ended, parting was not sweet sorrow...just unsatisfying.
What did Dash think?It’s hard to keep a 6-year-old boy interested in a love story, even if it’s done with animated, talking seals. So it was no surprise when Dash gave up on R&J:SWAK at the halfway point, declaring it “boring” and that he only likes “the seals who make the jokes” (Mercutio and Benvolio).
Will your kids like it?I think R&J:SWAK will definitely be more appealing to little girls who dream of princes, princesses, and fairy tales. If Dash is any indication, young boys may bail when the love story gets in full swing.
Will your FilmMother like it?My wife (who teaches high school English, including Hamlet) approached R&J:SWAK as more of a curiosity to see how Nibbelink adapted the classic play for kiddies, but she was pretty underwhelmed by what she saw. Maybe your FilmMother will have more appreciation for the love story and cute little seals.
Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss
* Director: Phil Nibbelink
* Screenwriter: Phil Nibbelink
* Cast: Daniel Trippett, Tricia Trippett, Chip Albers, Michael Toland, Phil Nibbelink, Chanelle Nibbelink
* MPAA Rating: G