Cameron Diaz and Mike Myers voice Princess Fiona and Shrek.
I find that children's movies are the hardest movies to review. To give you some background, I am 32 years old at the time of this writing and I have no children. This makes it difficult to see this movie through a child's eyes. So, be warned, my review is from the perspective of an adult and is thusly slanted. This review is not interested in whether or not children will like this movie, as I have no way of knowing whether they will or not. I can only recommend whether or not adults might like it. With that in mind, read on.
Shrek, an animated movie, tells the story of an ogre voiced by Mike Myers), who finds his home and his peaceful life in the swamp, disrupted by the arrival of cartloads of fairytale characters who have been deported by the diminutive Lord Farquand(John Lithgow) for reasons that are never really disclosed. Wanting the return of his peace and quiet, Shrek the Ogre goes to see Lord Farquand to negotiate. Farquand, who is in search of princess to marry so that he may become king, tells Shrek that if the ogre can bring him a bride, he will see that the fairy tale characters will be removed. Willing to do anything to get the Three Blind Mice out of his house and the Sleeping Snow White (complete with glass coffin) off his dining table, Shrek agrees. Accompanied by a talkative donkey(Eddie Murphy), Shrek sets off to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and get his home back.
Now, if that premise sounds more like the Fractured Fairy Tales from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon, than your typical Disney story, you're right. However, don't expect the verbal punnery and sly humor of those old classics, instead, Shrek relies more on farts, and ear wax jokes, than it does on witty dialogue. Although it does have it's moments. The broken ginger-bread man's cry of 'Eat Me!', when he is tortured by Lord Farquand, I found quite amusing. Still as far as the humor in this movie goes, I would classify it more as cute than gut-bustingly funny.
What saves this movie are the performances by the actor's, particularly, Murphy and Meyers. Murphy, as the fast-talking donkey, takes, what in the hands of a less talented performer, could have been an annoying character, and makes him endearing. While all his jokes aren't funny, he keeps them coming so fast, that enough of them hit the target to make you overlook the ones that fall flat. Myers, on the other hand, seems to be doing a more mild-mannered version of his Fat Bastard character from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. And while he doesn't have the funniest lines, he does make the repulsive ogre, a likable, and cheery one. The other two leads, Diaz and Lithgow, while adequate, do little to stand out.
Humor and plot aside, visually this movie is stunning. Computer generated cartoons have been getting more sophisticated since they became popular with Pixar's Toy Story, although they haven't necessarily gotten funnier. Shrek certainly contains some amazing moments. The dragon chase out of the tower is eye-popping and so are many of the other moments. The only weak points in the animation are the humans, the villagers at the beginning in particular. The subtlies of the human face still seem beyond computer generated graphics, although obviously a lot more time was spent on Princess Fiona, yet even she doesn't look as good as either Shrek or the Donkey.
John Lithgow voices Lord Farquaad.
I am appalled! How dare Dreamworks make such a disgusting example of a love story? Do they not understand that Hollywood has spent the last century and billions of dollars perpetuating the notion that only good looking people end up happily ever after. I took my kids to see this movie. What message do you think is being sent to our children by a film that shows an ogre get the girl who turns out to be just as unattractive as he is? When I pay to see a movie I expect the leads to be played by a rugged manly man with a shaved chest and a leading lady who has an unimaginably agreeable personality and properly augmented breast. Does anyone turn on Friends hoping to see some average looking person who hasn't had plastic surgery?
Other than that complete break from Hollywood tradition, the movie had little to offer adults. It slips a few questionable words in, like ass and damn. The humor is all aimed at children. However, the graphics were quite wonderful to look at. I was in awe of the dragon scenes.
My sons on the other hand loved this movie and my 5 year old particularly laughed throughout. He especially liked the fighting/wrestling scene with Shrek versus the guards and the one where the princess goes Matrix (yes, that camera work gets copied again) on some soldiers.
I agree completely with Scott in that the big flaw in the movie is that it did not run far enough with the fairy tale references. Those are some of the best jokes and there could have been plenty more.
There is no Prince Charming and the beautiful princess turns into an Ogre. This movie is a break from all Hollywood tradition but it could have skewered those traditions a little better.
Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers voice Princess Fiona, Donkey and Shrek.
Apparently I have kept more in touch with my inner child than my two brothers have because I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I felt it entertained on many levels. The child in me loved the slapstick and especially the humor of Eddie Murphy's donkey, while the adult part of me loved the menagerie of fairy tale characters and some of the more pointed remarks; for example when they keep commenting on the size of Lord Farquand's tower making up for his ahem-inadequacies.
The pace of the movie is just about perfect; they keep things moving along fast enough that one never feels the need to wonder how much time is left. The camaraderie between Shrek and the donkey is very much like a buddy flick. They set off to rescue the Princess and have one heck of an adventure that, as Scott mentioned, features some eye-popping visuals. Along the way Shrek, who as an ogre had always been a complete outcast, begins to realize the value of friendship and therefore begins to let down his defenses. This is incorporated fluidly into the story and never seems preachy or moralistic. Though there is a wonderful message being sent. Namely that we should value each other's differences rather than use them to tear each other down.
And the ending, I found to be a pleasant surprise. I assumed; as I am sure many adults watching this probably did, that not only would Shrek break the spell on the Princess (which he does) but that he too would become a beautiful Prince. In this enchanting fairy tale it turns out, as Eric belabored the point, that ugly creatures fall in love too. Who would have thought?
Photos © Copyright Dreamworks SKG (2001)