DreamWorks’ all-CGI Shrek is a lot more than a kid’s movie. In the great tradition of the Warner Bros. cartoons we all grew up with there’s a lot here that sails far over the rug-rat’s head and hits mommy and daddy square between the eyes, burrowing deep into the funny bone.
“Once upon a time there was a lovely princess,” says Shrek. What is a “Shrek” anyway? Well, he’s a fearsome yet cuddly Ogre, not to mention the spitting image of Ernest Borgnine – if Ernie were green with bugle ears and could somehow escape the colossal gravitational pull of Stella Stevens and Red Buttons. Not likely!
Mike Myers is the voice of Shrek. Mike’s voice menu is generally two flavors long: Austin-English or Fat-Bastard-Scottish. I’ll take Fat-Bastard-Scottish, please, hold the ham.
Shrek’s peace is broken when dozens of unwelcome storybook characters are dumped in his swamp. To return them home, Shrek must venture to the fantasyland kingdom of Lord Faarquad. If you replace a few letters of that name with a strategic “uckw,” then you’ll get the joke when lines like “who knows where this Faarquad is?” zoom by.
Prince Faarquad is an Easter Island statue in a crown. He’s a miniature Prince Valiant with five o’clock pixel shadow.
Shrek turns dozens of fairy tales inside out and upside down to hilarious effect. But the barbs cut much deeper than that. The kingdom of the Evil Faarquad is, to say the least familiar. If you live in Walt’s Mouse House, then Shrek is one subversive, vitriolic, and dead-on satirical poison pill! From turnstiles to long, curling lines to “It’s a Small World” – it’s all ripe for parody and the jokes cut like a very sharp knife. Ouch!
“You don’t suppose he’s compensating, do you?” asks Shrek when he first spies Faarquad’s skyscraping castle. You don’t suppose DreamWorks honcho Jeff Katzenberg hates that Disney faarquad Michael Eisner, with whom he was recently embroiled in a very nasty lawsuit, do you? Naaah! Lordy, this may be as much about acrimony as acri-money!
The animation in Shrek-land is utterly fantastic, especially the environments. The nature scenes look strikingly real, even if the CGI humans still seem to move like they’re attached to marionette strings.
Eddie Murphy is Shrek’s sidekick, a talking donkey. He bursts into song with evergreens like “On the Road Again,” but inexplicably ignores Eddie’s biggest hit “Party All The Time.” Whassup with that? We want to “Party all the time, Paaaaarty all the tiiiiime!”
Cameron Diaz voices the fair princess rescued by Shrek who cares not that he is big, green, and Borgnine. Still, she can’t understand how he’s the only creature in this fairytale forest who evidently hails from Scotland.
“This beith our first meeting,” says Cameron, in an accent that’s decidedly Olde Southern Californian. “Get thee to the beach, wench, for thy gnarly waves that thou shoulds’t hang thy ten.”
The gags in this movie are totally up to the second, including a terrific scene where Cameron’s Princess Fiona goes Crouching Tiger all over Robin Hood’s merry men. Shrek is funnier than 90 percent of what passes for comedy nowadays – as Rob Schneider is bound to vividly demonstrate as the clock ticks down to the apocalypse or the opening of The Animal in the unlikely event they’re not one in the same.
Shrek tells us that beauty is on the inside, not the outside. Why cop makeup tips from Rebecca Romijn-Stamos when Whoopi Goldberg is just a center square away? Why dream of Cameron Diaz when you can wake to Jenny Craig? Remember, kids, Jay Leno is funny, gravity falls up, and the shortest distance between two points is a wildly looping bee-line!
Where else can the Ogre get the babe? Only in a fairy tale, my friends.
Or at the Playboy mansion, where the fairy is short but the tail is long.
Photos Copyright ©2001 DreamWorks SKG