Ossus Library Index Fantasy Movie Index

SHREK

Directed by Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson (2001, Dreamworks)
Featuring voices by Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow

An Ogre tries to rid his swamp of fairy tale creatures by rescuing a princess trapped in a tower by a dragon.

View count: Twice

 

 

4 stars

March 28th, 2003 on DVD

 
    The DVD of this movie does it great justice, especially in showing the incredible detail that is evident in every single shot.

I don't remember noticing so much of the music in this movie the first time I saw it. The main theme was very catchy, and very soothing. Even the "welcome to the kingdom" song was fun. Of course, the rock 'n' roll songs were wonderfully placed throughout the film, for charging ahead with their adventure/ mission, feeling depressed, or having fun.

The best thing about the film is the comedy, with most of that coming from Donkey, still my favorite character. He has a line for everything, and he usually overcompensates by chattering on. As Shrek says, it's getting him to shut up that's the problem. My favorite line in the whole movie is at the beginning, when Donkey says that he's making waffles in the morning. The look on his face is pure Eddie Murphy and is classic.

I also love the way Donkey circles the chair or ground before he gets comfortable -just like a cat, and many other animals. Instinct, I guess -but it makes the character that much more realistic.
The artistry is quite evident throughout the film, as well. The visuals were amazing, with wide expanses of land that Shrek and Donkey traverse being most impressive. The backgrounds for just about every location, however, were so detailed, from Shrek's house decorated with all sorts of things, to the debris in Fiona's castle, and all of the extras in the tournament scenes and in Shrek's swamp.

The story is interesting, as well, though it is a little derivative in some spots. I think it is meant to be that way, however, because it tries to turn every fairy tale on its head. In order to do that, it had to present us with the fairy tale that we expected, at least for a short while. I just find it annoying that people can't communicate enough to iron out misunderstandings. Of course, that's standard fare for comedies.

The DVD special features are a mixed bag. There are a lot of them, but I skipped most of the games, which were aimed at children, and the music videos, aimed at teens. The longest of what was left was a behind-the-scenes special, which talked a lot with the actors and animators, and was fairly interesting. I wish we had spent a little more time with the actors, however, because they were very funny and had a lot to say about their characters. The animators were featured on the second technical special, which had so much of the first one in it, word for word, that it became really annoying. Not meant to be watched back-to-back, I guess. The dubbing feature was fluff, but it gave a little idea of what goes on for international releases, and the technical goof was funny in places, too. The best feature, however, is Shrek's karaoke beach party! Newly animated to various rock and love songs (including a hilarious rap by Donkey), they were all appropriate, and quite funny. Character interviews were mildly funny, especially Fiona talking about Charlie's Angels! But I don't like reading my TV screen, so I skipped the production notes and biographies completely. I am also glad that the deleted scenes were not included, because I was bored by most of it. From Fiona's original introduction, I wonder how she was born as an ogre to human parents?

Shrek is a very funny and beautifully crafted movie (especially Fiona!), and it has a good message behind it all, since everybody is judging all the others by their looks, not by the way they act. Donkey is the exception, because he doesn't care about any of that. He likes Shrek because the Ogre saved his life, and Fiona because she seems like a genuinely nice person -he even gets to chat with her as she is an ogre, not caring in the slightest. The cartoon characters don't seem to care, either. If only life was more like that.

 

 

4 stars

June 26th, 2001 in the Theatre

 
    A really funny jaunt into the world of fairy tales, with a reluctant hero who just wants to be left alone, and a princess whose definition of beauty is put to the test.

The best part of this movie has to be the donkey. I was never a fan of Eddie Murphy, but recently, especially with Mulan and Dr. Doolittle, I think he's one of the funniest people out there. And now this. Every time the donkey opens his mouth, I laughed, sometimes just a chuckle, more often louder. Besides the way he spoke, the artists did a great job of making this the cutest donkey in the world, especially when he's trotting along next to Shrek, or lying on his back or crossing his front legs. He was more like a dog than a donkey!

Shrek himself was pretty funny, too. An Ogre who enjoys chasing people out of his swamp, he gets exasperated easily when things start to get out of hand. At first its the donkey, who he saves from a fairy-tale-creature-hunting mob of royal guards. By that night, his swamp has been invaded by all sorts of fairy-tale creatures, from the three little pigs, to Pinocchio, Red Riding Hood's wolf and the seven dwarfs, among so many others that I didn't even recognize. 

When Shrek asks who knows where to find Lord Farquaad, the person responsible for dumping these "people" in his swamp, the donkey pleads to lead him, jumping up and down in hilarious fashion, yelling "pick me, pick me" like an anxious child. And scenes like that kept coming. When they arrive at Farquaad's walled fortress, they encounter a rope line-up area followed by a turnstyle, obviously poking fun at Disney World. The guard at the door follows the zig-zag path to get away from the Ogre, while Shrek just walks through it. Then they are treated to a singing Information booth, reminiscent of "It's A Small World" (and the donkey wants to watch it again!).

Shrek has fun beating all of the knights at the tournament, so Farquaad offers him his swamp back if the Ogre can bring him Princess Fionna, so that he can become King. He found out about the princess while talking to the magic mirror (he had a choice between Cinderella, Snow White and Fionna, who was guarded by a dragon in a high tower). Farquaad, however, is extremely short, and nobody thinks she will want to marry him. His height is a constant source of humour to Shrek and the talking donkey. But Farquaad is still powerful, as witnessed by his torturing of the gingerbread man ("Can't catch me"- they caught him). 

So Shrek and the donkey adventure over the hills until they find the castle, a nearly ruined structure surrounded by a lava-filled moat inside a volcanic crater, and accessible only by a rickety rope bridge. The dragon attacks, but ends up falling in love with the donkey, as he sweet-talks her so that she won't eat him. Shrek finds the princess, but he's helmeted and covered in armour, so she doesn't know he's an Ogre. She keeps protesting that this isn't the way her rescue is supposed to be! When they do escape (and the dragon nearly catches them), she demands to see his face, and is extremely disappointed to find out that he's not a dashing knight.

On the trip back (Shrek has to carry her over his shoulder part of the way), she forces them to stop, so that she can enter a cave before the sun sets. For she has a terrible secret that she's not willing to share yet. Shrek and the donkey are incensed that they cannot share the shelter, although Shrek threatens to push a huge rock over the entrance once she's inside, because he finds her so annoying! But they share a special time together gazing at the stars, in a scene reminiscent of the one in The Lion King, where Shrek tells Donkey stories about past Ogres based on their representations in the sky. 

Fionna warms up to Shrek after she overhears him talking about how people judge him by what he is, without getting to know him. But that evening, after they get very close, and as they approach the city, she decides to take refuge in a windmill instead of entering and meeting her groom-to-be. Donkey finds her, and discovers that she's turned into an Ogre. They have a long talk, and, of course, Shrek overhears the end of the conversation, where Fionna is talking about how ugly she is, but he thinks she's talking about him. Classic sit-com stuff that I thought could have been avoided.

In more sit-com antics, Shrek gives her up to Farquaad in spite and leaves with barely an explanation, not even listening to what she has to say. For her part, she's so vague that no wonder he kept misunderstanding. He goes back to his swamp, which has been cleared out, and broods. The donkey finds him there, and through some verbal sparring, convinces Shrek that he should go and seek the princess before it's too late, for she's getting married before sunset. 

Using the help of the Dragon, who is very sad until she spies Donkey again by a lake, they get to the castle in time (donkey tells the dragon "go ahead, have some fun" when they arrive at the palace guards!). Shrek stops the wedding, just as Fionna changes back into an Ogre. They kiss, and to her surprise, she stays an Ogre. Of course she does. She was supposed to turn into beauty according to her true love's kiss' definition. And of course Shrek would find an Ogre more beautiful than a human!

Not too many characters had more than a couple of lines of dialogue, but every one who did was really funny. Fionna was headstrong, falls in love with Shrek, but feels betrayed by him when he spurns her. But many of her lines and her attitude was really funny to watch. Shrek was funny, of course, in his exasperation, but it was the Donkey who never wavered. I don't think there was anything that he said that wasn't funny, even when he was admonishing Shrek for his mistakes. But he was best when saying things under his breath, personal comments that nobody is really supposed to hear!

The visuals were spectacular. I don't know if any of it was live footage with animation drawn over, but every stream and especially the fire and lava, looked so amazing. They captured the mesmerizing effects of these perfectly. 

The story was a simple quest, but it did its job, especially since rescuing a princess is not what Shrek wanted to do in the first place. The writing was what really brought the movie up, because the writers know how to amuse. But the voice actors contributed most, I think. John Lithgow was really funny and believable as the king-wanna-be, and Cameron Diaz did a great job, too. She learned from Charlie's Angels, I guess, how to accurately dialogue the scene where she battles the French Robin Hood, in the style of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Mike Myers voiced an inconsistent accent, but for the most part, he did a great job. But the best, as already mentioned, was Eddie Murphy. He was the life of the movie, and without him, a lot of the movie would have fallen flat. 

Combining the voice actors with a witty script and terrific visuals makes this movie a winner. There's not much story, and a few too many clichés, but with the focus on "beauty" and how it's in the eye of the beholder, I don't think it needs much more. The comedy more than made up for any problems in the plot.  It was more a device to make fun of fairy tales and Disney. And it did so in a very successful and funny manner.
 
   

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