Shrek movie poster

Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Roger S.H. Schulman & Joe Stillman, based on the book by William Steig
Directed by: Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow

My Advice: Matinee

Shrek (voiced by Myers) is an ogre who lives a pretty good life. He has his own swamp to live in, mud to wash himself with, and villagers to terrify. Farquaad (voiced by Lithgow) is lord of the nearby lands, and wants to create the perfect realm for himself. In order to do so, he forces all of the fairytale creatures out, relocating them right onto Shrek’s doorstep. Now all Farquaad needs is a bride, and guess who shows up in time to strike a deal to get him one?

If you were looking for the Disney-killer, keep looking. Not to say that the film isn’t amusing–it is, full of several unexpected gutlaughs, the best of which aim right above the noggins of the little ones. Any film that features a torture scene with a gingerbread man has its twisted heart in the right place, though. The very best laughs are not-veiled-at-all skewers fired at Lord Mouse. All I can tell you is the listen for the Muzak. You’ll know what I mean.

The vocal cast does well enough. Myers gives a weird semi-Scottish accent to Shrek, which seems to fade in and out over time. The true fun vocally is with Murphy, whose talkative Donkey rattles off lines in manic succession and bursts into song with very amusing results. The animation is…well, different. The surfaces of everything are so smooth that my brain kept registering the animation as claymation. And for all the really beautiful landscapes, fields, buildings and so forth, it gave the look of the film an oddly sterile feel. Somehow Pixar managed with the Toy Story movies to keep things from looking antiseptic, but somehow that eludes the PDI team here. Also, the story itself seems extremely simplistic, to the detriment of the film. Apart from a sitcom-esque misunderstanding, there really isn’t much in the way of significant obstacles for our heroes. Children’s films, especially animated ones, are short on surprise endings–the joy comes from the twists and turns on the road to get to the finish line.

Regardless, this is definitely a step up from Prince of Egypt, so at least we can say DreamWorks is heading in the right direction. Animation fans should definitely check it out on the big screen, and I believe kids would enjoy it as well.

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