Shrek (2001) — Fairy tales get turned upside-down

“And in the morning, I’m makin’ waffles!”

Justin’s rating: Krikey!

Justin’s review: I just love women-folk. They honestly crack me up, and I’m glad we have them in the world, because otherwise everything would smell worse. Gals are so funny in movie theaters, particularly when you’re listening to the ones on dates in the row behind you.

So when PoolMan and I saw Shrek, we laughed as much at the girls in the audience as the movie itself. And that was a lot of laughter. Every time a cartoon character was misunderstood, True Luv™ thwarted, or a small defenseless animal flung for the better part of a mile, numerous sounds of “awwww” would erupt all around us. Just gotta love compassion. And flying donkeys.

Shrek is funny in so many ways, that it painfully kills me to see how much it trounces any comedy competition that you’ll see this year. Or even last year. It’s got your typical sight gags (including many digs at the Mouse House), it’s got plenty of slapstick, it’s even got a bit of hit-you-on-the-head-with-a-folding-chair wrestling just in case Al wandered into the theater. But the outright warped sense of humor made this an instant favorite in my cold, black heart.

Shrek (Mike Myers) is an ogre. He’s gross and stuff, yet still pretty cute and lovable. I give big kudos to the people at Dreamworks for pulling that bit of wizardry off. Shrek lives in an early-2000s computer animated world, which is going to require you to surrender a great deal of expectations for graphical fidelity. It looks far more shoddy than most people wanted to admit back in the day, which I guess says something about how the humor and characterization is strong enough to overcome that.

With his comfortably quiet swamp threatened by fairy tale refugees, Shrek teams up with Donkey (Eddie Murphy doing the most likable Eddie Murphy presentation ever) to reclaim their homes from the evil Lord Farquaad. The odd bickering couple also sort-of “rescue” Princess Fiona, an odd girl with a secret or two under her Buttercup exterior.

I just love Shrek, ’cause he’s such the anti-hero with the heart of gold. He eventually does the right thing after a lot of poking and prodding, and he gets to run in slo-mo as a dragon’s fireball races down the hall to roast him. We should all get a scene like that.

Essentially, I’m just telling you what a few thousand other critics and most moviegoers agree on: This is a solidly funny and likable story. Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy both are given plenty of leeway to ad lib in silly voices, and that makes for a remarkably entertaining time.

So if you like a movie where a very ugly guy CAN get the girl, where Disney is mocked and spat upon, where fairy tales prove they can be just as bizarre as they were in the old days, where a girl gets to fight like Trinity in The Matrix, and where a musical number or two is thrown in to pep things up, then Shrek is the dessert you crave after a fine steak dinner of life.

DnaError’s rating: Orge Love XXX

DnaError’s review: Let me just get this out the way right off the bat. I liked Shrek. I thought it was funny, satirical, and well animated. All the voice actors are on target, and special mention must be made to John Lithgow for Lord Farquaad. The best villain-you-love-to-hate in an animated flick in a while.

Since everyone agrees on it’s overall gooditude, I just want to bring up some nagging points:

1. Why CGI? There is nothing here that cries out for computer animation. Nothing here couldn’t be done with 2D animation, and the CGI doesn’t make any advances in the field (the fire is all CGI, which is mostly new, but there is nothing here your typical gamer hasn’t seen before and better). The detail level gets reduced on a big screen and unlike most movies, actually looks better on TV then 40ft high. The whole CGI thing, however good looking, just seems like a gimmick.

2. Not Exploiting the Idea. After the big, epic castle rescue, the whole story seems to take a nose dive. The fast jokes and clever one-liners take back seat to a pretty smarmy and sentimental story about “inner beauty” while the Princess has a radical personality shift worthy of medication. The best jokes where about the fractured fairy tale world and the egotistical Lord Farquaad, when the movie switched focus to a Disney romance, it just limped along until the end.

3. Music. The pop music interludes, especially the opening one, have a forced and perfunctory feeling to them. I’m probably over-thinking movies again but aside from the closing number. All that “hip” music just seems cut in.

Okay, that’s my rant of a review. Shrek is a delightful little satire that runs a bit too long, makes Cameron Diaz look more eerie then normal, and has the uplifting message about deus ex machinas.

Kyle’s rating: Another example of the “I’m a clone, and so are you” phenomenon sweeping the world!

Kyle’s review: Like anyone, I enjoy animation. I don’t go goo-goo-gah-gah over cartoons, and though I dig Batman and Darkwing Duck, I wouldn’t have watched their cartoons if they weren’t the best viewing options available while crashed on the couch after school. Now that I control my own college schedule (no classes before 10, no classes after 3!), I have no time for cartoons. Besides, when I come in at midnight and turn on the TV, I pass up the cartoon channels because there is, uh, “better” stuff to watch.

You may ask what any of this has to do with Shrek. That doesn’t mean I’ll answer of course. Sucker! Ha!

Just kidding. Anyway, whether you subscribe to the sociological studies that say cartoons are getting edgier and more cutting edge, or you believe my personal viewpoint (that people are devolving into immaturity and loving cartoons is just part of that process, with hip new clothing lines of teenage diapers right around the corner) there is no denying that animation is en vogue right now. Or is it in vogue?

Anyway, research I don’t plan on doing revealed that DVD sales of animated features far outsell live-action films, so clearly it’s the “cool” thing to like animation. Having just spent at day at the Orange County Fair and seeing girls of all ages jumping up and down at having won (or been gifted with) the current holy grail of carnival prizes, a stuffed Spongebob Squarepants, I can attest to the cool factor of cartoons and its ink-drawn ilk. And if it’s all computer-generated, so much the better!

Which brings up finally to Shrek. I’m sure it’s a great film. It won an Academy Award, right? It must be good! 300 million people can’t be wrong, right? Wrong! Or, um, right! I forget what my point is.

Oh, yeah: don’t let friends and loved ones goad you into thinking Shrek is the greatest thing since popped corn. It’s an okay movie. I rented it and couldn’t sit through it, though I could tell there is enough entertainment to placate a more dedicated viewer than I.

I guess what bothers me about Shrek is that I’ve seen its humor and (supposed) fantastical innocence in much better films, but because this is computer-generated and slick-looking this gets all the awards and money. And that’s fine, because that’s how it goes, but if you think Shrek is all that I really suggest you try to broaden your horizons, because there is a big selection of humor and drama out there that is much more deserving of your time and effort than Shrek, and even though at this time of night I can’t name a single example I hope you’ll take my word for it.

Read more books! See more films and plays! All I’m saying is that Shrek is okay, but if you think it’s this hallmark of filmmaking and story telling, I think you’re missing the forest for the pretty CGI trees. Let’s watch Shrek together five years from now, and we’ll decide then just how groundbreaking this really is.

Didja notice?

  • Lord Farquaad’s name said fast = a really bad word
  • The two letter S’s in the DreamWorks SKG logo turn into the “Shrek” S with ogre ears.
  • You’re parked in Lancelot!
  • The human cookbook in the dragon tower

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