Directors: Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson
Cast: The voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow
MPAA Rating: (for mild language and some crude humor)
Running Time: 1:30
Release Date: 5/18/01
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Review by Mark Dujsik
Have animated films become the most consistently good movies? Itís not just the Disney renaissance either. Other studios are releasing great films that happen to be animated. Think about the most recent ventures: the Toy Story films, Titan A.E., Chicken Run, The Prince of Egypt, Tarzan, The Iron Giant. These are all great films, and now you can add Shrek to that list.
Shrek is a delightful and utterly wicked comedy that spoofs the fairy tale tradition. Thereís our hero, Shrek (voice of Mike Myers), but heís no knight in shining armor. Heís an ogre. Thereís his faithful sidekick and trusty steed, Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy), who is, obviously, a donkey. There is the beautiful Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz), with more to her than meets the eye. Then thereís the evil Lord Farquaad (voice of John Lithgow), whose name will undergo as many different pronunciations as is allowed in a PG-rated movie.
Without giving too much away, the story places Shrek on two quests. First off, he must get his swampland back from Farquaad who has turned it into a reservation for fairy tale creatures. The opening involves people turning in the creatures for a reward. Iím not sure why, but itís funny to see Pinocchio trying to lie his way out of being turned in, and itís hilarious later to see him constantly dancing jigs. Donkey is one of the creatures being turned over, but he escapes and runs into Shrek who scares off the pursuers. After much convincing, Shrek allows Donkey to spend the night outside his home. Later that night, his land is overrun by fairy tale characters.
This obviously upsets Shrek who has decided to live out his life alone, so he and Donkey travel to see Farquaad. Thereís a great gag involving a man dressed in a large Farquaad head who follows the roped off line to escape Shrek. Once Shrek arrives, thereís another great sequence that imitates professional wrestling. Before this, thereís a great gag involving the Gingerbread Man being tortured by Farquaad. There are a lot of great gags.
Anyway, back to the plot. Once Shrek is named champion of the tournament, Farquaad makes a deal with him. If he rescues Princess Fiona from her tower and dragon guard, Farquaad will give him back his land. So begins Shrek and Donkeyís second quest. On their way, we see the beginning of the filmís main theme. Shrek explains how an ogre is like an onion, because they both have many layers (Donkeyís response: "Why canít you be more like a cake? They have a lot of layers too."). Itís apparent that there is more to Shrek than his physical appearance, and the filmmakers and Myers have done an outstanding job of making him a wholly sympathetic character. The themes of "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder" and "true beauty is on the inside" are pulled off without ever seeming cloying and actually end up being quite touching.
All of the voice talent here is well-done. Lithgowís voice adds the necessary diabolical twinge to Farquaad, and Diaz gives the sense of a tough exterior hiding something just below the surface. The standout, though, is Murphy who has already done some voice-over work before in Mulan. Here however, Murphy is given a bigger task than just spouting off one-liners. He must ramble on continuously without ever becoming annoying or repetitious. He succeeds brilliantly. It is no exaggeration saying that this is one of his best performances.
The technology on exhibit in Shrek is an ever-evolving one. With each new film that displays computer animation, the level of sophistication grows. I remember the first time I saw Al in Toy Story 2 and thinking how amazing the detail was. For Shrek, the animators have created Princess Fiona, who plays a much larger part than Al did, and the results are all the more amazing. Farquaad, on the other hand, is animated in a completely different style. He looks like a giant leap in creating cartoon characters. It is the perfect choice. Despite what many may think, computer animation leaves as much, if not more, room for individual style as hand-drawn animation. I just wonder where the next step will lead us.
Shrek is a wonderful film. It is not as much a kidís movie as much as it is a family movie. And it is not as much a family movie as it is a comedy for all audiences. It has a diabolical sense of humor and a really big heart. This is one of those rare "family films" that an older audience will understand and appreciate more than their younger counterparts, and isnít that all that matters?
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.