FILM OF THE MONTH

From July 2001
Film Review

Also recommended: Series 7 other June releases

Film Review Hotline
SHREK
4 Stars- Recommended

Shrek's foursome: donkey, ogre, princess, despot

Are DreamWorks taking the Mickey?

VOICES: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy
Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow

DIRECTORS: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
SCREENPLAY:
Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman and Roger SH Schulman
CERTIFICATE: U
DISTRIBUTOR & Image copyright: UIP
RUNNING TIME: 1hr 30mins
OPENING DATE (UK): June 29

READ MIKE MYERS AND CAMERON DIAZ ON VOICING SHREK HERE

Once upon a time, a wise wizard called Disney conjured-up animated drawings of classic fairy tales and verily did he entertain the masses with their loveable characters, captivating worlds and goodly advice that when you wish upon a star your dreams come true.

And all was well in the Disney kingdom, until a youthful band of clever sorcerers calling their groups DreamWorks appeared. With their book of magical computer-generated tricks and some of the finest jesters in the land, they mocked Disney’s fine tales and did cleaneth-up at the international box-office. The End.

Aided by months of enthusiastic press discussion and a competition slot at Cannes (the first animated entrant for half a century), this droll, warm-hearted and stunning-looking digital spoof has been generating more buzz than a bee-keepers shed. Breaking new ground in the detailed depiction of human characters, luscious backdrops and, um, donkey fur, Shrek is consistently clever and creative, though it doesn’t quite reach the three-dimensional heights of A Bug’s Life or Toy Story 2.

The atypical hero is big green ogre, Shrek (a Scottish-lilted Myers), who’s an ill-tempered swamp dweller with disgusting habits who values his peace and quiet. That all changes when despotic midget Lord Farquaad (Lithgow) rounds-up the kingdom’s many fairy tale and nursery rhyme inhabitants (including Pinocchio, a septet of dwarfs and a trio of blind mice) and chucks them in Shrek’s garden. With his new and unwanted sidekick Donkey (Murphy), Shrek confronts Far-quaad at his strangely familiar castle cum theme park, the lord agreeing to remove the squatters if the ogre and his ass rescue Princess Fiona (Diaz) from a dragon’s lair.

Adopting a traditional fairy tale template but going off on satirical tangents – such as Fiona beating up a French Robin Hood and his Merry Men using Matrix-style skills and the colossal female dragon being besotted with the dinky Donkey – Shrek is, within its own mainstream limitations, quite a subversive venture. It also manages to embrace the timeless ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ lesson with some quietly affecting moments of tenderness.

The vocal contributions of Myers, Diaz and Lithgow are perfectly matched to their CGI incarnations, and unlike DreamWorks earlier Antz, where the characters were lazily tagged on to their stars’ personas, these feel fresh and distinctive. The exception, however, is Murphy’s initially cute but ultimately irritating mighty-mouth Donkey, whom, for this reviewer at least, wore out his welcome about half-way through – mainly because his lines just aren’t particularly funny.

That niggle aside, Shrek is very entertaining, though perhaps younger children won’t be clued-up enough to get much of the visual humour. Even if fairy-tale fun doesn’t appeal, it is worth a view just for some amazingly detailed facial expressions and richly textured backdrops. But, for now at least, the CGI kingdom is still ruled by Pixar.

Jason Caro

Read our massive reviews section in this month's Film Review
Reviews © Visual Imagination Ltd 2001. Not for reproduction.

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4 Stars; Recommended
SERIES 7: THE CONTENDERS • released June 01

FULL DETAILS AND REVIEWS OF ALL THESE AND MORE IN THIS ISSUE

5 Stars; Excellent
BEFORE NIGHT FALLS
June 15
THE PRINCESS AND THE WARRIOR
June 29

4 Stars; Recommended
BANDE À PART June 22
CROUPIER June 01
GINGER SNAPS June 29
LATE NIGHT SHOPPING June 22
MERCI POUR LE CHOCOLAT
(Nightcap) June 08
NOWHERE TO HIDE June 29
LA SAISON DES HOMMES June 29