Shrek (2001) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for crude humor and some mild language
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast (voices): Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel
Director: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
Screenplay: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, Roger S.H. Schulman (based on the book by William Steig)
With the exception of in-jokes taking jabs at family film industry leader Disney and their former monopoly in the animation industry, Shrek is a straight-forward, hip adventure. At the same time, while it may be derivative, it is immensely enjoyable nonetheless. Extremely loosely based on the book by William Steig, Shrek is funny and fun, mostly due to the talents of the voice actors, in addition to the amazingly rendered computer animation, which is so stunning one quickly forgets they are watching a purely animated movie almost from the get-go.
The fairy tale story follows a large but affable ogre (voiced by Mike Myers, Austin Powers), who is a bit miffed to discover his swamp now inhabits all the fairy tale creatures who were ousted by the scheming Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow, A Civil Action), who wants all praise and attention from his subjects for himself. Lord Farquaad also wants to have his own kingdom, and to that end he can only do so by marrying a princess, and he strikes a bargain with the ogre to clear the swamp from all creatures in exchange for rescuing the damsel princess (Cameron Diaz, Charlie's Angels) trapped in a castle guarded by a treacherous dragon. So Shrek ventures out, along with his sidekick in the form of a wise-cracking donkey (Eddie Murphy, Nutty Professor II), in a quest to ultimately be alone...or so he hopes.
Shrek seems almost impossible to dislike, no matter what your age. There are loads of special effects and flatulent-based humor -- enough to keep the kiddies in stitches. There are also some funny satirical anti-Disney moments to draw out the chuckles from the adults. While the special effects are a marvel to behold, at least Shrek delivers a relatively decent story to keep it from being merely an eye-candy adventure like many of its ilk. It tries for the laughs of today, and perhaps it will one day be dated by its in-jokes and pop music, but who cares about how it will be 20 years from now if you want to watch it today, right? Shrek is a highly entertaining delight, recommended for everyone -- except perhaps Disney execs.
-- Followed by Shrek 2 (2004) and Shrek the Third (2007).
©2001 Vince Leo