A mean lord exiles fairytale creatures to the swamp of a grumpy ogre, who must go on a quest and rescue a princess for the lord in order to get his land back.A mean lord exiles fairytale creatures to the swamp of a grumpy ogre, who must go on a quest and rescue a princess for the lord in order to get his land back.A mean lord exiles fairytale creatures to the swamp of a grumpy ogre, who must go on a quest and rescue a princess for the lord in order to get his land back.
Taking a Fractured Fairy Tale approach to a "Beauty And The Beast"-type plot, throwing in a few mild profanities, flatulence jokes, and Michael Myers' over-the-top faux-Scots accent, "Shrek" shows off a very snarky humor, full of jokes that will likely go over the heads of a cartoon's target audience while registering with their parents. 'Sure it's big enough, but look at the location,' Shrek observes upon seeing a giant castle in the middle of nowhere. The kids, though, will love 'Shrek' every bit as much. It's impossible not to be carried along by its merry madness.
Myers, as the title character, is certainly easier to take than he was in his last Austin Powers movie, his voice work registering real tenderness as well as the expected laughs as a misunderstood ogre who would rather tell a group of frightened villagers about the cruelties he will inflict on them and their dead bodies than cause those villagers any genuine harm. He's a bit of a softie, actually, and scared to let anyone know it.
Cameron Diaz is as beautiful to listen to hear as she is to look at in her other films. Her character, Princess Fiona, doesn't have as much room to shine as Shrek (the balance turns out better in the sequel) but she does well with what she's given.
The comic highpoints in terms of voice characterization is Eddie Murphy as Shrek's donkey companion and John Lithgow as nasty Lord Farquaad, who wants to rid his domain of Duloc of all fairy tale creatures. Murphy never stops being funny even as he helps set up key plot moments; in fact he's never been this funny since the first "Beverly Hills Cop" movie. "We can stay up late, swapping manly stories, and in the morning, I'm making waffles," the donkey tells a much put-upon Shrek, and you still laugh the fifth time you hear it. Lithgow just makes you smile whenever he opens his mouth, like when he grills a hapless gingerbread man in such a convoluted way it turns into a nursery-rhyme recitation.
Why exactly Farquaad is grilling this gingerbread man so closely isn't clear, and there are similar plot holes throughout the movie. Shrek may be too tame a character; we never really feel any worry around him. The donkey falls into a relationship with a dragon that screams "plot convenience," and there are strange little bits of cruelty, like turning a frog and snake into balloons, which just is thrown out there and let be.
But the central story, about how Shrek and Fiona struggle to overcome the odds and find true love, is really sweet and well-rendered. The animation is spectacular, a revolution for the eyes in its deep-dish panoramas and remarkable attention to textures. And the jokes keep flying, the major ones as well as hilarious bits of filigree you won't notice the first or second time but reward you for paying attention.
This is not a Disney movie, something "Shrek" makes very clear not only with its PG-13 humor but its knocks at Disney characters like Snow White and at the Magic Kingdom in the form of Duloc, where an array of "It's A Small World"-type dolls lecture Shrek and Donkey on all the things NOT to do. Frankly, "Shrek" could use a little injection of Disney heart, but Disney could use some of this picture's freshness as well. A very charming movie worth your time.
- Jun 10, 2004