2001, Movie, PG, 89 mins


A colossally entertaining animated feature — with one colossally ironic flaw — this fast-forward fairy tale marries state-of-the-art computer graphics with a rich, multilevel story for all ages — and for the ages. Very loosely based on the 1990 children's book Shrek! by legendary New Yorker cartoonist William Steig, the film both honors and subverts classic storybook tales with a controlled explosion of snap-crackle-pop-culture references. Ogre Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers in Scottish "Fat Bastard" mode) is a green-skinned incredible bulk who gets rid of torch-bearing villagers as much by patronizing them as scaring them. Misanthropic but also misunderstood, the big grumbler's not pleased to discover that preening Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) has turned his beloved swamp into a refugee camp for resettled fairy-tale characters. Pissed-off and determined to sort it out, Shrek, accompanied by the dog-like, talking Donkey (Eddie Murphy), heads to the nearby city of Duloc — a Disneyland parody complete with an "It's a Small World"-style jingle. Inadvertently interrupting a tournament in which Farquaad will select a knight to rescue one Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), Shrek, following a WWF-inspired brawl, reluctantly gets the gig. Together, he and Donkey outsmart a dragon and rescue Fiona, who, it turns out, has had way too much time to sit around and think about true love. (Shrek: "You were expecting Prince Charming?!" Fiona: "Well... yes.") On the trip back, however, the beautiful and headstrong princess begins to fall for her ugly but goodhearted protector. Unfortunately, she's under a secret curse, and a subsequent misunderstanding sours Shrek against her and leads the princess to the altar with Farquaad. Fast, irreverent and magnificently animated and acted with a degree of expressiveness and textural detail heretofore unseen in computer graphics, this adventure-comedy-romance succeeds in all three areas — and has a terrific soundtrack to boot. That said, the fart jokes are tired and unoriginal, and there's a bit too much piled-on gross-out humor early on. We'd also be remiss not to acknowledge that while Murphy's talent makes Donkey hilarious, the character is essentially a throwback to the shameful "frightened darkie" stereotype — you almost expect him to blurt out, "Hooves, don't fail me now!" Equally bothersome is that with all the film's talk of tolerance about people's physical appearance, it unceasingly makes fun of the fact that Farquaad is short, an inexplicable hypocrisy that leaves a sour aftertaste. In the works since 1994, the project was originally conceived as a stop-motion animated film starring the late Chris Farley, and was reworked in 1998 following his death the previous year. leave a comment --Frank Lovece

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