USA, 2001. Rated PG. 90 minutes.

Cast: voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel
Writers: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, and Roger S.H.Schulman, based on the book by William Steig. Additional dialogue by Cody Cameron, Chris Miller & Conrad Vernon
Music: Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell, Joan Jett (song "Bad Reputation"), James McKee Smith (additional music)
Producers: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Aron Warner, John H. Williams
Directors: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson


Grade: B- Review by Carlo Cavagna

Whether or not you love Shrek or find it to be only a pleasant diversion depends on how much of a purist you are when it comes to fairly tales. If you prefer your animated-fable movies to be straightforward interpretations of the great classics, far removed from the modern world (like, say, Disney's Snow White or Sleeping Beauty), then you will not be adding Shrek to your pantheon of favorite films. If, on the other hand, you think that Robin Williams' genie in Aladdin was the funniest character ever seen in a Disney film, you will unreservedly love Shrek. (Whether you love Shrek also depends on whether computer animation leaves you cold or thrilling to an exciting advance in the form.)

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Shrek is unabashedly modern, featuring a barrage of non-stop anachronistic jokes and pop culture references. Characters quip about how they're going to need some "serious therapy," about how the size of a castle suggests that its owner is "compensating for something," and about parfaits, of all things. Indeed, the movie pokes fun at the classics--virtually every major character from Western fairy tales makes a brief appearance, and there's even a reference to Babe. There is no getting yourself lost in another time and place with Shrek, despite its typical fairy tale setting. On the one hand, that's okay, because most of the modern jokes are quite sharp and funny, with the exception of several gratuitous fart jokes. (Is there ever any other kind of fart joke?) On the other hand, they cloud a story that is every bit as good as the classic fairy tales Shrek mocks.

Shrek (voice of Mike Myers, using his British accent for no apparent reason), Shrek and sidekickas the advertisements make clear, is a big green ogre. All he wants is to be left alone in his swamp, and he'll scare the living crap out of anyone who bothers him…until he finds his home invaded by all the other fairy tale characters who ever existed (Pinocchio, the Seven Dwarves, the Big Bad Wolf, etc). The characters have been captured and relocated there by diminutive Prince Farquaad (John Lithgow), who just hates fairy tale creatures. So, accompanied by an unwelcome talking donkey (Eddie Murphy at his side-splitting best, minus the profanity), Shrek confronts the evil Prince, accidentally winning his tournament of knights in the process. Farquaad strikes a deal with Shrek: he will remove the interlopers from the swamp if Shrek and the donkey rescue fair Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a big bad dragon, so that Farquaad may marry her and become a legitimate king. But Shrek unexpectedly falls in love with the Princess, and the movie becomes a beauty-and-the-beast type of affair. It's all completely predictable, of course, but hey, this is a fairy tale. They're all predictable.

Scrape off the anachronistic jokes, and Shrek is all about not judging people by their appearances, and true love being blind to superficial physicality. These are valuable lessons for youngsters to hear. However, at the same time Shrek is imparting these lessons, it is mercilessly making fun of Farquaad for being short, so to a certain extent the message is undermined. (I guess it's okay to make fun of him, because he's evil and cowardly.) Youngsters will also hear the "flatulence" jokes and the word "ass," so some parental guidance is definitely required. Parents should note that Shrek is rated PG, not G. Nevertheless, the movie is appropriate for kids of all ages, and adults, too--it's one of those rare films that should entertain everyone equally well.

Review © September 2001 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2001 Dreamworks. All Rights Reserved.

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