The film stars Mike Myers as the title character (a role originally created for the late Chris Farley), a green ogre who enjoys his solitude living in a swamp. His privacy is disturbed by a donkey (Eddie Murphy who has escaped the “resettlement plans” of Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). Lord Farquaad doesn’t apparently like fairy tale creatures and he sends them all to live in Shrek’s swamp. This leads Shrek to make a deal with Farquaad to get his swamp back in exchange for rescuing a Princess (Cameron Diaz) protected by a dragon.
Part Fractured Fairy Tale, the movie seems to borrow a sense of irreverent humor that was a trademark of the late Jay Ward’s work. This humor is used to skewer all things Disney, from their parks, to the formulaic nature of their movies, to their use of songs, to Michael Eisner himself (Farquaad bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Eisner). Yet this all works, and is held together because of the heartfelt nature of the story.
The 3D animation here is gorgeous and fairly realistic. While the human characters don’t look completely human, they do look as good if not better than the Pixar humans shown to date. But even with that, the style of animation fits well with the tone of the movie.
The voice talents are top notch, and with the exception of Mr. Murphy, never seem to be too over the top. In fact, Mr. Murphy’s character is your standard wisecracking sidekick that normally becomes rather annoying in these types of movies. Fortunately that doesn’t happen here.
The film even has a twist to the standard “The spell is broken and they lived happily ever after ending” that has raised the ire of feminists in the past. It is a great message to send people away with.
Keep an eye out for some of my favorite scenes involving a Dating Game parody, Disney Theme Park lines, the “Muffin Man”, the “park rules”, and the donkey’s “new friend”.
A tremendous effort and a worthy follow-up to last summer’s Dreamworks success, “Chicken Run!”Rating: A