Dreamworks' track record for animated films is spotty. The Prince of Egypt was disappointingly mediocre, and The Road to El Dorado was merely disappointing. When Dreamworks teams up with another studio to work outside traditional animation, the results are far better. Chicken Run was a wonderful claymation-type movie made with the help of Aardman Studios. Now, PDI and Dreamworks come together to make Shrek, a surprisingly funny computer animated movie along the lines of rival Disney's Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Shrek succeeds because of a combination of amazing animation and a funny story.
Shrek (Mike Meyers, 54, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) is an ogre who just wants to be left alone. He lives by himself in a swamp, and acts hideous and mean because the villagers expect it of him. Every once in a while they come to try to drive him out, and he scares them off. When the diminutive Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow, A Civil Action, Rugrats in Paris) begins driving out all the fairy creatures from his realm, they decide to crash in Shrek's swamp. Shrek wants his privacy back, and Farquaad agrees to give it to him if he rescues Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz, The Invisible Circus, Charlie's Angels) from a fire-breathing dragon. Tagging along is Donkey (Eddie Murphy, The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, Life), a fast-talking donkey. Farquaad wants to marry Fiona so he can legitimately rule over the kingdom.
Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio (The Road to El Dorado), Joe Stillman (Beavis and Butthead Do America), Roger S.H. Schulman (Balto) and Chris Miller's (Multiplicity) loose adaptation of William Steig's book always manages to go in unexpected directions. The main convention they stick to is letting Shrek and Fiona fall in love with each other. Otherwise, there are plenty of surprises and lots of amusing back and forth. Directors Andrew Adamson Vicky Jenson throw in some good-natured jabs at Disney (ex-company for Dreamworks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg) It's easy for Meyers and Murphy, who both have lots of experience in comedies. In particular, Donkey motor-mouths his way through the entire film, wise-cracking at every conceivable moment. Diaz suffers, because of a lack of 'true' comedic experience and because the writers don't give her much to do. She is the typical spunky modern-thinking princess who seems to inhabit every medieval movie today.
The animation is gorgeous. The only problem with Shrek is the same problem that plagues other computer animated films; how to make people look real. Aside from Fiona and Farquaad, there are not that many people, so Shrek sidesteps the issue. It's the details that stand out in PDI's works. When Fiona moves, her dress folds in and out and responds to wind and motion. It really looks like a dress. There is also a short moment where one can see the reflections on a marble floor. It's a tiny detail that probably cost thousands of dollars and appears on screen for only a matter of seconds. On a final note, just because Shrek is animated does not mean that it's only for kids. Although (for the most part) it is appropriate for children, adults will probably enjoy and understand this more than most children will.
|Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.|
|1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated PG for mild language and some crude humor.|
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