A very entertaining film full of materials poking fun at fairy tales, legends, folktales, medieval times and even Disney. Shrek is real enough to be taken seriously and bright/bouncy enough to be taken not so seriously. The animation is a delight to look at. The details in the clothing, the texture of the donkey’s fur – all very strong work from the PDI studio who also did the animation for Dreamworks 1998 animated feature Antz.
Mike Myers (Wayne’s World, Austin Powers) provides Shrek’s voice and Cameron Diaz (There’s Something About Mary, Charlie’s Angels) voices Princess Fiona and Eddie Murphy (Nutty Professor, Beverly Hills Cop) voices Donkey. Dreamworks wisely featured these three stars in aggressive print and visual marketing campaigns. In the past, other animation studios might have featured the actual voice talent in behind the scenes specials, but moviegoers would have to look at the fine print on the marketing ads to see the voice talent’s name.
The beginning has the all too familiar storybook reading, but the animation and amazing special effects engage the audience immediately. The film has several memorable lines, some singing, gingerbread antics, spoofs on Babe and famous European fables made famous by Disney and a popular modern sport to tickle your funny bone several times.
Viewers unfamiliar with medieval times may be confused with the reasoning behind a tournament within the kingdom, but they won’t be lost for long. Filmmakers make the most of their open opportunity to be creative with the action and settings due to the logistical freedom the computer animation provides. Filmmakers’ great use of the animation medium is most apparent during some great camerawork/direction on the bridge leading to a castle. Some of the scenes could only be funny if they were animated.
The villain role of Lord Farquaad, voiced by John Lithgow, also increases the laughs as his appearance puts the audience at ease from worry that the heroes will be harmed during the story.
The entire film has a light hearted, care free approach that makes it easy to watch and enjoy. Except for a brief character interlude that plays on the Robin Hood tale (involving the voice and singing talents of Vincent Casell (Elizabeth, Ocean’s 12, Jason Bourne, and Messenger: Joan of Arc) and amazing scenes involving a large, unique creature, the filmmakers wisely concentrate on the four main characters. The fight scenes are the most entertaining, there’s just something extra funny about fighting for laughs and seeing animated characters fight.
On the serious side, the community of fairy tale creatures must deal with Farquaad‘s discriminatory practices which forces them away from the kingdom. The story plays off of many stereotypes and most of the jokes were funny, but some may offend. For example, the audience is lead to guess that the Three Pigs have German accents because they eat a lot, not because they’re based on a German fairy tale. The film has a admirable theme of accepting yourself as who you are throughout the plot and Shrek has a lot to say about how he has been treated, an element that affects his current lifestyle.
The great music score from Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell includes some exciting James Bond-like chase orchestrations. Some battles may scare some small ones during this 90 minute masterpiece, which raises animated films to a new level. Highly recommended (***1/2 out of four stars) and rated PG for mild language and crude humor.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler