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Shrek (2001)


Computer animation’s ‘WOW’ factor bar has just bumped up another notch. Shrek, a fairy tale of sorts, is the raiser of that bar, giving us a tale that revolves around an ogre who makes candles out of his earwax, a talking donkey who’s afraid of the dark, a princess who likes ‘Piña Coladas and getting caught in the rain,’ and a ‘vertically challenged’ lord who looks a bit like Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

With WWF-style wrestling, vivid color schemes, a scary ogre who’s not that scary, psychological evaluation by a talking donkey, loads of humor, and a simple and straightforward plot, Shrek zings along, providing fun and thrills at every turn. But the real treasure lies in Shrek‘s ability to subtlety poke fun at the mega-mouse corporation of Disney en route to providing a quick 85 minutes of pure entertainment. Torturing the Gingerbread Man? I’m sold.

Shrek plays out much like the fairy tales it sends up. In a faraway land called Duloc, a lonely ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers) lives in the swamp. Duloc’s heartless ruler Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) is rounding up all of the fantastic creatures in his kingdom, interring them in Shrek’s swamp. Peeved, Shrek attempts to get Farquaad to cart away the nuisance fairytale creatures, and after proving his strength by defeating all of the Lord’s men in a WWF melee, the Lord strikes a deal with Shrek to rescue a princess (Cameron Diaz) whom he needs to marry in order to become king of Duloc. The only problem is that the princess is stuck in a castle surrounded by a fierce dragon. Shrek agrees, and along with his trusty donkey steed (Eddie Murphy), they venture to the castle, save the princess, defeat a band of Riverdancing merry men, and… well you know the rest.

The film’s cleverness lies in both its jaw-dropping animation and its quick script (which was written and re-written by four screenwriters). As road-tripping stars, Eddie Murphy and Mike Myers are the new Hope and Crosby of computer animation, fun throughout their journey.

As mentioned, the movie is chock full of Disney-bashing from its theme parks to its cuddly characters and ridiculous takes on every fairy tale creature out there — from the Three Blind Mice to Pinocchio. The best part of Shrek, though, is the unbelievable computer animation that includes gorgeous landscapes full of trees blowing the wind, detailed character movements, realistic shadowing and lighting from torches and candles, and amazing water ripples.

Shrek will find broad appeal in a wide range of audiences — from short-attention-span-stricken kids to cynical teenagers to over-stimulated adults. The animation is fabulous, the humor is sharp, and in the end, don’t we all love green ogres who use farting and belching as a sign of affection?

Dreamworks goes all-out on the special edition DVD release of the film, with two discs full of junk to entertain adults and kids. The commentary track and documentaries are a little snoozy and repetitive — my favorite bit is the goof reel, which features technical glitches that make the donkey overly fuzzy or the king’s hair go bananas. Now that’s comedy, folks. Recommended.

My donkey can fly higher than your donkey.