Shrek (Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, 2001)
[originally posted 4Feb2002]
Shrek is the consummate fairytale, a sendup of hundreds of fairy tales that have come before while still being one itself. It also has one of the finest endings in modern filmmaking, but by the time you get there, that’s almost beside the point; you’ve had so much fun on the journey that you hate to see it end.
Shrek (Mike Myers) is your typical fairytale ogre. He’s big, green, and scares the natives. His fondest wish is to be left alone in his swamp to live his life in peace. That wish, however, is tossed to the wind when Shrek first meets Donkey, who is, surprisingly enough, a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy), and then later that day finds out that the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) is evicting fairy tale creatures, all of whom are taking up residence in Shrek’s swamp. Shrek heads off to see Lord Farquaad to work something out, and is given the following deal: rescue the fair Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and you’ll get your swamp back. Of course, Farquaad has his own plans…
Nothing new here. Just combine the usual saving-the-princess-from-the-dragon fairytale with the frog-prince fairytale (where your hero isn’t Prince Charming) and you’ve got a good idea of what’s going on. The ending, while somewhat surprising at first blush, is also pretty standard fairytale fare. (That doesn’t make it any less great. After all, we all knew how Before Night Falls was going to end, too.) What separates Shrek from the usual fairytale fare, and makes it equally palatable to adults and kids, is that preternatural combination of adult-themed humor and kid-friendly animation that, while still too rarely seen, is starting to become more common. Add the House of Pacific Data to the short list of folks who are capable of pulling it off, and eagerly await their next picture. Hopefully, it’ll be this good. ****