Review by Nathan Davies
Technologically advanced, five years of development later, Dreamworks/PDI
are back for round two, and this time theyve brought Shrek.
Shrek is, quite literally, a monster of a film. A fairy tale monster
in fact, being based on the illustrated childrens book by William
Steig and the whole Brothers Grimm tradition that has kept Disney
in business for so long.
voiced by John Lithgow
In terms of plot, it follows the misadventures of a solitude seeking,
foul smelling, ugly green ogre (the Shrek of the title, voiced by Austin
Powers star Mike Myers) who is forced to save a princess from a fire
breathing dragon in order to get his home back from outlawed fairytale
squatters. However, to describe this film so simply is to do it a great
injustice. In addition to the monster-as-hero reversal on which the
story hangs, almost everything you usually take for granted in a fairy
story is turned upside-down and played for laughs.
For example, where once there might have been a noble steed to bear
the hero forth, here we have Eddie Murphys fast-talking, street-wise
Donkey, and Cameron Diazs liberated Princess Fiona
lets just say that she could use a few ornithology lessons from
Pocahontas. Even the good old Once Upon A Time
(quite literally) a toilet humour makeover.
voiced by Cameron Diaz
What makes Shrek really shine, however, is not the number of gags it
throws at you (Im not complaining but they could have got more
in there), but the breadth of the humour. This film has a Universal
certificate, and it does indeed have something for everyone.
Fart jokes and belching contests for the little ones, pop-culture references
for the bigger kids and character driven humour and a magic mirror version
of blind date for the adults.
Eddie Murphy provides
the voice for the donkey
It all goes to show that Dreamworks have significantly improved their
game since Antz came in second behind A Bugs Life. Another
indicator of this is the way this film has been marketed. With all that
Shrek has going for it; the laughs, the style, the cast (John Lithgow
is perfect as the voice of the diminutive dictator Lord Farquaad), one
would hope that it would have still been a success without the publicity,
hype and line of complementary action figures.
However, the sad truth is that it would have probably been overtaken
just as Antz was. Why? Because, like its predecessor, it would
most likely be mistaken for a cartoon and thus lose at least a third
of its audience to the misconception that such things are just for kids.
Shrek is not a cartoon, but a CGI film, and a damn good one at that.
If Dreamworks/PDI can continue to produce films like this and remain
sensitive to the public perceptions of this fledgling digital medium
then Disney had better watch out; when youre at the top the only
way you can go is down.
A stylish, often affectionate, sometimes biting parody of fairy tales
in general and Disney in particular. Beautiful to watch and hysterically
funny. Watch out for the balloon animals.
The best smartest
funniest donkey in the world
© Nathan Davies 2001