Shrek (2001)

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


Anamorphic: Yes (comes with full-frame version as well).

My Advice: Own It.

Shrek (voiced by Myers) is an ogre who likes to keep himself to himself. Spurned by the more "beautiful people" of the world, he lives in his swamp and enjoys his solitary life. That's all going to change, thanks to the diminutive ruler of DuLoc, Lord Farquaad (voiced by Lithgow). He wants to throw out all the fairy tale creatures of the land, so that DuLoc will be perfect. Unfortunately, the relocation area for the fairy tale creatures is...Shrek's swamp. Therefore he, and his talkative travelling companion, Donkey (voiced by Murphy), must go and try to reestablish the tranquility and solitude the swamp once had.

The film Shrek is an interesting study how phenomena are pulled off. Shrek, first of all, is not an animated film in the traditional American sense. Traditional American 'toons are for the kiddies. Not since Looney Tunes has there been a consistent source of cartoons that could be watched at the level of children and then enjoyed all over again once adulthood has been attained (some of us are still trying to get there, so...). But Shrek, even though your kids might enjoy it, is not for them. It's for you, the presumably somewhat adult audience I am now addressing. So what happens to adult-marketed cartoons? Well, they die. They die miserable, horrible deaths at the box office because no adult in their right mind would watch a cartoon built specifcally for them. So DreamWorks' dilemna was how to deal with this film--so they played it off as a kid's flick. They pumped the voice talent in a huge way. Their plan worked, to the tune of more than $250 million in domestic box office.

But this doesn't change the fact that the film really isn't $250 million good. It just came along at a time when cinema was so bad, people needed something remotely cute to fill their time. So any port in a storm, even an animated one. Not to say the film isn't worth watching. It's actually rather funny. But it's also fairly simplistic, the only real turning point or difficulty in Shrek's quest being a sitcomesque, Three's Company-level misunderstanding. So it's a fun film, not the monster that it seems to have turned into (no pun intended).

Regardless, to match the box office smackdown of the film, DreamWorks has put together a feature-heavy two-disc set. Unfortunately, most of the features aren't anything to write home about. The behind-the-scenes and Tech featurettes are startlingly similar. They are packed with some good information, but it's hard to process all of that when you're having to deal with DreamWorks people patting themselves on the backs about how they're doing things never attempted before. This is all well and good, but if practically everyone brings it up in interviews, it gets old. If I had to listen or read Katzenberg's comments about computer animation being EVolutionary one more, I think I would have hurt some small, cute animals.

The audio commentary is amusing in places and also informational, especially concerning how certain lines were nabbed and pieced together in the film, but it too is hampered by long stretches where the creators of the film sit silent, enthralled by their own creation. Jenson tries to play the moments off for humor, but we don't need to hear from the creators how great their baby looks over and over again. It gets tired quickly.

There is a great deal of content on here for kids, and most of it is lame. In the "DreamWorks Kids" section of the set, you get music videos from the Smash Mouth and Baha Men songs used in the film. You also get treated to the dancers in the Baha Men video shaking their asses at the camera. For kids. Right. Sure. There are two games that come on the disc for use in your player--Magic Mirror Eight Ball and Rescue the Princess. The Eight Ball is just, well, a DVD player version of the old Eight Ball you had as a kid, but with Chris Miller's mirror providing the answers. Rescue the Princess is an adventure game one steps through, picking what route to take by chance alone. Each answer is accompanied by footage from the film, so children might be amused, but that's about it.

The "Hilarious Character Interviews" are short Q&A's with the characters, and are anything but hilarious. Lithgow gets extra points for evidently not taking part in them. The rest of the games that are available on the DVD-ROM portion of the set will probably amuse kids for a short time, but they grow old very quickly.

In fact, the main reason the DVD portion of the set still gets a favorable rating is due to the three-minute extended ending to the film, the "Shrek Karaoke Dance Party." In it, characters perform popular tunes including Donkey (with Dragon as his backup dancer) singing "Baby Got Back" and the Gingerbread Man singing "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?" Mind-destroyingly funny.

For fans of the film, the set is a must-have for the extended ending alone. For those who just sort of liked the film, it's definitely worth a rental.

Buy the DVD from Amazon!
Buy the soundtrack from Amazon!
Buy the musical score on CD from Amazon!
Buy the original book from Amazon!
Buy the book adaptation of the film from Amazon!

Read the movie review!

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