|"Donkey, two things okay? Shut...up!"|
|Time: 85 mins.|
Won Academy Award for Best Animated Film. Nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Being an adult, I don't usually go out of my way to see animated films, because they're generally for children and filled with sappy songs and body function humor. On the rare occasion, they speak to all ages or have a unique animation style like TOY STORY or TARZAN, which will get my butt into the theater. SHREK seemed to have all the components: great cast, amazing 3-D animation and a different take on the same old storylines. I wasn't sure what to expect and was completely blown away at the sight of this world unfolding. It may have taken Dreamworks four years and a cast change to get this flick to the theater, but man is it worth the wait. Which is not to say that it doesn't have it's silly moments and is the next best thing out there, but it is a quality film that everyone will be able to enjoy. It's a fairy tale for the new millennium with rock music as its soundtrack and a heavy dose of pop culture for its laughs. It's not everyday that you find a character as ugly and lovable as Shrek.
The opening of the film introduces us to Shrek (voiced by Myers), a mean, offensive ogre who just wants to live in his swamp in peace. The music that accompanies this sequence of Shrek eating, bathing, etc., is the rock alternative hit "All Star" by Smashmouth, which pretty much clues you in right away that this will not be your usual visit into happily ever after. Shrek's peace and quiet is completely destroyed by the arrival of Donkey (Murphy), a talking ass who never shuts up, and what seems to be every other fairy tale character known to man from Pinocchio to the three blind mice onto his property. It seems that Lord Farquaad has evicted them from their homes in the forest and they have nowhere else to go. The fact that Shrek's an ogre and doesn't want them there makes no difference. So, in order to get his land back, uninhabited by others, he sets off with Donkey in tow, not that he has a choice about that, to find the Lord Farquaad and demand he let the fairy folk return home. Donkey couldn't be more excited. He's never had a cool friend like Shrek before. As for Shrek, he's not exactly pleased with this acquaintance. He's unable to make Donkey understand that ogres don't have friends.
Meanwhile, back in Duloc, the pint-sized, mean-spirited Lord Farquaad (Lithgow) is hatching a scheme. With the help of the Magic Mirror, he's given the choice of three princesses Cinderella, Snow White and Princess Fiona that if wedded will make him King. He chooses the beautiful Fiona who's been locked in a tower and guarded by a fire-breathing dragon her whole life, waiting for her true love to come rescue her with a kiss. Farquaad, not one to get his own hands dirty, holds a competition to see which brave night will make the trip and bring Fiona back to him. Shrek stumbles into the games and after besting all the knights makes a deal with Farquaad. If he manages to rescue Fiona, Farquaad will give him his swamp back, minus all the fairy creature squatters. Farquaad agrees and our heroic duo sets off for Fiona's castle. What they find is a moat filled with lava and a castle filled with the bones of unsuccessful previous suitors. Shrek, being an ogre isn't afraid of anything, even the enormous fire-breathing dragon, which takes a distinct liking to Donkey. Fiona (Diaz) is initially thrilled to finally be rescued, but Shrek isn't exactly what she had in mind. She was expecting Prince Charming.
Shrek is quick to point out that perhaps she might not mind Farquaad's shortcomings when compared to his ugly countenance. Either way, it doesn't matter to him, he's taking her back so he can get his life back. What neither of them expects is that they begin to really like each other. The trek back is filled with surprises. Fiona proves that she's not just any old spoiled princess (in a fight sequence that will have you rolling) and Shrek uncovers his softer side. By the time they reach Duloc, their feelings for each other are quite strong and Donkey tries to convince them to open up to each other. But a misunderstanding severs the tender bonds of burgeoning love and Fiona decides to take her chances with Lord Farquaad. Needless to say, Shrek is unable to keep his feelings a secret and races to try to claim his true love. The finale is one you have to see to believe. This tale ends on a happy note with a message about inner beauty being what really matters. Which is why this is ultimately still a fairy tale. Try selling that in the real world.
Shrek is a lovable character that defies the normal animation conventions. His introduction is filled with every possible gross body function joke known to man, but it works because he's supposed to be an offensive, ugly creature. Thankfully, the level of humor only goes up from there. He's our prince charming, but with a weird accent and green skin. He doth protest, but he's our hero and a fairly well-rounded one at that. Donkey has to be one of the most exasperating characters ever created, but you can't help but love him. He's like the annoying kid you grew up with who talked incessantly, but made you laugh and was loyal to the end. Murphy does a great job here, walking a fine line between funny and downright irritating. Lithgow doesn't have much to do with Lord Farquaad. He's a mean bastard and that's exactly what you get. Diaz gives Princess Fiona the right amount of romantic yearnings and kick-ass bravado. Her performance doesn't seem as fluid as the other characters voice-wise or animation-wise, but she captures Fiona's dilemma beautifully. The story is not a complicated one, but it has greater depth than most animated films, which will go a long way with adults. It's message is also one that parents should approve of even if it's not remotely realistic.
The amazing thing about SHREK is the animation. It takes the colorful cleanness of TOY STORY and gives it a whole new dimension with real textures and people who look, if not quite life-like, at least like humans. The greatest progress is in the renditions of hair, grass and water. You'd swear it was the real thing mapped into the film. Donkey looked like a soft plush toy you just wanted to reach out and touch. The fact that they also managed to include every fairy tale creature is just mind-boggling and very humorous. The digs at Disney and the "Magic Kingdom" are numerous and quite pointed. Since they're also funny, it's clear Mr. Katzenberg had enough intelligence to stop himself before it became downright petty. It's clear he has a grudge, but that he also has a sense of humor and propriety. You can get away with tweaking your audiences favorite uncle, but not murdering him without alienating their affections. Unless, you're like me who finds their world domination attitude boarish and offensive. In any case, SHREK is a film the whole family will enjoy with endearing characters, a rocking soundtrack and humor for ever type of funny bone. I think it's a modern day classic.