Screenplay : Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, Roger S.H. Schulman and Ted Elliott (additional dialogue by Chris Miller) (based on the book by William Steig)
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2001
The computer-animated comedy Shrek is a delightfully irreverent fairy tale whose hero is the titular giant green ogre, a contented outcast with all kinds of disgusting personal hygiene habits. When the movie opens, we get to see Shrek's daily routine, which includes bathing in mud, making candles out of his own ear wax, and, in an action that is metaphorical of the movie as a whole, wiping himself with pages from a traditional fairy tale.
Shrek (voiced by comedian Mike Myers with one of his slightly twisted Scottish accents) is a loner who lives in a shack in the swamp, happily isolated from everyone else. His idyll is destroyed when the local ruler, the short-statured but gleefully self-absorbed Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), decides that he wants to "clean up" the kingdom by rounding up all fairy tale creatures and relocating them in Shrek's swamp. Thus, Shrek finds his swamp filled with the likes of Pinocchio, the Three Blind Mice, the Three Bears, the wolf from "Little Red Riding Hood," and so on. The seven dwarves show up and try to put the sleeping Snow White in her glass case on Shrek's kitchen table, to which he responds, "Oh no, dead broad off the table!"
Shrek ends up striking a deal with Farquaad in order to get all these creatures out of his swamp: Shrek will go on a journey to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who is locked in a castle surrounded by lava and guarded by a fire-breathing dragon, so Farquaad can marry her and become a true king. Thus, Shrek literally takes on the role of the knight in shining armor who fights the dragon to rescue the damsel in distress, who has been patiently waiting for "love's first kiss" to set her free.
Shrek is joined in his quest by a talking donkey named...well, Donkey. Donkey is voiced in a scene-stealing turn by Eddie Murphy, who did similar work as a mouthy dragon in Disney's Mulan (1998). Murphy, whose distinctive voice has always been one of his strongest features as a comedian and actor, seems born to voice these kinds of animated roles. His Donkey is an energetic, eager-to-please, wise-cracking, loud-mouthed sidekick whom we grow to love even if we wouldn't want to actually spend more than about two minutes in a room alone with him. Donkey and Shrek develop an amusing love-hate relationship, as Shrek, who prefers to be alone in his swamp, is suddenly forced to co-exist with an animal who literally will not shut up.
As a completely computer-animated movie, Shrek is a beautiful creation that was obviously a labor of love for its creators. It is a movie of great texture and detail, with some backgrounds that are so well done that they could pass for the real thing (this is especially true of the fiery castle where Fiona is being held). The characters themselves are nicely designed and very expressive. Shrek's smooth green mug can be both fierce and movingly sad, while Donkey's big eyes and even bigger front teeth work well to underscore his persona. Even though Fiona is designed to be conventionally beautiful, there are a few tricks up her sleeve that I won't reveal. And Farquaad, with his beady eyes, oversized head, and ridiculously protruding chin, is a perfect symbol of misplaced male vanity.
Based on the children's book by William Steig, Shrek is quick, light on its feet, and very, very funny. It goes for both the easy jokes (just enough bathroom and flatulence humor to get it a PG-rating) and the more complex satire, especially in the way it toys with the traditional gender roles and expectations built into fairy tales. One of the funniest scenes is Fiona's exasperated response to Shrek's "rescuing" her, as she keeps repeating, "This is not how it's supposed to be!" That seems to have been the creative mantra of the filmmakers: Don't let anything in the movie be the way one would expect it to be, which is what gives the movie its energy and playfulness.
The writers also punch up the humor with contemporary references and in-jokes, many of which are stabs at animation giant Disney, the former home of DreamWorks producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has been working on this movie for years. My favorite Disney-poking scene is when Farquaad brings in the magic mirror from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and demands that it show him eligible princesses he can marry. The mirror then presents three--Cinderella, Snow White, and Fiona--in a "Let's get ready to ruuuumble" announcer voice as if they were on a game show, giving them quickie descriptions meant to punch up their sex appeal and allure (about Snow White, he says, "She lives with seven men, but she's not easy").
Like most animated movies made primarily for kids, Shrek has a traditional message--don't judge people by their exteriors--but it goes about conveying that message in such an amusingly irreverent way that it doesn't feel preachy or condescending. This is truly a movie that adults will get just as big a kick out of as their kids will.
|Shrek Two-Disc Special Edition DVD|
|Aspect Ratio||1.78:1 / 1.33:1|
|Audio|| Dolby Digital 5.1 surround |
DTS 5.1 surround
Dolby 2.0 surround
|Languages||English (5.1, DTS 5.1, 2.0) |
Spanish (5.1, 2.0)
French (5.1, 2.0)
|Subtitles||English, Spanish, French|
|Supplements|| Audio commentary by directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and producer Aron Warner |
HBO First Look: The Making of Shrek 25-minute featurette
The Tech of Shrek 22-minute featurette
Storyboard pitch of deleted scenes
"Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party" alternate ending
Character progression reel
Original theatrical trailer
Xbox video game hints
5 DVD games
13 DVD-ROM games, including "Shrek's ReVoice Studio"
|Distributor||DreamWorks Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||November 2, 2001|
|The direct digital-to-digital transfer of Shrek is absolutely gorgeous, creating as close to a reference-quality image as I've seen in some time. Every detail and nuance of the animation, from the tiniest facial movements to the finely tuned textures of objects, is loving rendered without any pixelation or other artifacts. Colors are strong and well-saturated, and black levels are dead-on. Shrek is presented in both pan-and-scan and 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen on separate discs.|
|Shrek has both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround mixes, although you can only hear the DTS mix on the widescreen version (the widescreen version also has Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish and French soundtracks, while the pan-and-scan only has 2.0 stereo soundtracks for the foreign languages). Overall, both soundtracks are solid, although not outstanding. The sound effects are well rendered with good bass levels and nice separation, but I found that the volume was a bit troublesome at times, with the quieter sounds being difficult to hear without turning the volume up to the point that it would be too loud during other scenes.|
| The supplements are spread across the two discs, with no particularly noticeable rhyme or reason as to what went where. In general, most of the supplements seem to be aimed primarily at kids and general moviegoers, not film geeks or animation fanatics. There's enough here to satisfy just about anyone, but it isn't nearly as technically in-depth as some other special-edition animation DVDs. |
Starting with the first disc, we can begin with the HBO First Look: The Making of Shrek, a 25-minute behind-the-scenes documentary with enough promotional overtones and pure hype to qualify it as an extended commercial, but also enough information to make it worth watching. It includes interviews with codirectors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, DreamWorks honco Jeffrey Katzenberg, and stars Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow, among others.
One of funniest supplements is "Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party," a hilarious alternate ending presented in anamorphic widescreen and 5.1-channel sound. This scene finds Shrek and the whole cast belting out various tunes such as Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are," Madonna's "Like a Virgin," and The Village People's "YMCA," although the best is watching Donkey rapping Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" with the Dragon shaking her booty in the background.
One part of this disc is titled "DreamWorksKids" and has three sections designed particularly for interaction with little ones. The first section, "Favorite Scenes," is essentially a menu divided into five sections--"Action!," "Laugh Out Loud," "Gross Out!," "Isn't That Romantic?," and "Weird Animal Instances"--that allows for easy access to chapters that correspond to those areas.
The second section, "Shrek's Music Room," leads to music videos for Smash Mouth's "I'm a Believer" and Baha Men's "Best Year of Our Lives," as well as a two-minute making-of featurette for the latter.
The third section, "The Game Swamp," will undoubtedly be the most popular, as it leads to five rather simple DVD games--"Rescue the Princess," "Shrektacular Trivia," "Character Morph," "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall," and "Dress Up the Gingerbread Man," as well as to even more games (another 13, if you can believe that) if you have a DVD-ROM set-up. The most notable of the DVD-ROM games is the inventive "Shrek's ReVoice Studio," which allows those with a microphone to record their own voices in one of 12 scenes from the movie.
The first disc is rounded out with cast and crew biographies (some of which also feature interviews), production notes, as well as a sneak-peek trailer for the upcoming DreamWorks traditionally animated film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron in anamorphic widescreen and 5.1-channel sound.
On the second disc, you can start with a screen-specific audio commentary by codirectors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and producer Aron Warner, which begins with them collectively humming the opening music. That pretty much sets the tone of the commentary, which is much like the movie itself: funny and more than a bit irreverent, although I should note it's also quite informative at times, as well.
This disc also includes two additional making-of featurettes. The first, the 22-minute The Tech of Shrek, focuses exclusively on the technical leaps and bounds that were required in order to create the movie. A second is a brief, two-minute featurette on dubbing the movie. Although way too short, this featurette is unique in that it looks at the different non-American actors who were called in to play the various roles for international versions (Italian, Spanish, French, and German, among others) of the movie. Actors who dub foreign language versions of American movies are too often overlooked, especially in the realm of animation where the voice is so crucial to the character.
The character progression reels offer still images of sketches and sculptures of Shrek, Fiona, Beast Fiona, Donkey, Farquaad, Dragon, Dragon's Castle, Shrek's House, and DuLoc that range from the earliest stages to the finished products. Each one contains between 10 and 20 illustrations that nicely demonstrate the various (and sometimes quite bad) stages that are necessary in building animated characters and locations from scratch.
The technical "goofs" section is a funny bit that includes sequences that, in one way or another, got screwed up during the computer-animation process, so that Shrek's mouth goes completely out of control or Donkey's fur is made too long so he looks like, in the filmmakers' words, a Chia pet.
Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick