Shrek (2001)
Shrek (2001)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Release Date: May 18th, 2001 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson Actors: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel, Chris Miller

 


 

I

n a land far, far away, the beautiful Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is locked away in a castle tower. A cruel enchantment is upon her, causing her to be human during the day and ogre by night – which can only be broken by true love’s first kiss. While many brave knights have tried to rescue her, none have made it past the fire-breathing dragon that guards the fortress. But none of this matters to the monstrous green ogre Shrek (Mike Myers), who enjoys dining on slugs, taking mud baths in the isolation of his forest dwelling, scaring villagers, and tossing around the soldiers of evil Lord Farquaad’s (the exaggeratedly inimical voice of John Lithgow) army.

Farquaad’s perfect city of Duloc doesn’t have a place for all the absurd fairy tale creatures running about, so he puts a price on the head of all such inhabitants (hilariously, Geppetto turns in his own little wooden boy for some coins), dumping those surrendered into Shrek’s beloved swamp. When the ruthless seigneur obtains a magic mirror, he’s told that in order to be a true king, he must marry a princess. Farquaad then schemes to rescue Fiona in order to rule his kingdom with proper callousness. In exchange for putting his slough back in angelic seclusion, Shrek agrees to embark on a quest to deliver the ensorcelled woman from the dragon’s keep. And in place of a noble steed, he’s accompanied by a ceaselessly talking, magic donkey (Eddie Murphy).

Inevitably, Shrek and Fiona realize that despite their physical differences and social inequalities, they’re perfect for one another (it also helps that Fiona’s alternate appearance is a green beast of the same species as Shrek). It’s a classic plot with a uniquely family-friendly twist – perfect for DreamWorks to establish itself in the computer animation game. While the storyline isn’t particularly moving (based on the book by William Steig), the most effective moments arrive in the form of clever visual gags related to well-known fairy tales – including the Three Blind Mice, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Red Riding Hood’s wolf antagonist, Goldilock’s bears, the Gingerbread Man, and the Three Little Pigs, as well as all sorts of witches, gnomes, fairies, and elves.

Additionally, Shrek’s character design is decent; his peculiarities are comedically gross, with a bizarrely Irish brogue for accompaniment, and his underdog qualities don’t inhibit his ability to be a believable warrior hero (the action sequences are actually quite impressive). His donkey sidekick is less likeable (thankfully not of the same annoying caliber as Jar Jar Binks), scripted to yammer incessantly for comic relief, but he spiels entirely too often – while most of his dialogue is too juvenile to be humorous. Farquaad is also lacking as a villain, rarely posing much of a threat. Shrek’s (and the kingdom’s) acceptance of Fiona’s greener side is a far greater conundrum.

Equally as discordant, the film opens with a random song by Smash Mouth, promoting the notion that (as with all the following Shrek movies) the musical hits of the time are somehow relevant in attracting viewers – even if they don’t particularly pertain to the events onscreen. While some may appeal to current audiences, they also needlessly date the film. Every 15 minutes, there’s another musical sequence, either with montage or swashbuckling action (the music rights probably took up the majority of the budget) or Robin Hood’s merry men enacting music video dance choreography. These segments are the most distracting, proving that a simple orchestral backing would have been far more appropriate. Nevertheless, “Shrek” went on to win the first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2001 (beating out Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”) and spawned an incredibly successful franchise.

– Mike Massie

  • 7/10