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Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel, Jim Cummings
Set in a strange, colorful land populated by fairy tale characters, SHREK is a hilarious comedy that will win over audiences of children and adults alike. Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) is a fearsome green ogre living in isolation in his own cozy little swamp. He is not receptive to visitors, and fends off the occasional party of torch-wielding villagers with ease. But when the power-hungry Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) turns Shrek's swamp into a relocation camp for dozens of banished fairy-tale characters (including some pesky dwarves, wolves, and fairies) Shrek's quiet, introverted life is ruined. Joined by the talkative Donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek makes his way to Farquaad's realm of Duloc, where the Lord promises makes Shrek and offer: He will rid Shrek's land of the unwanted visitors if Shrek will go on a simple quest to free Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from her remote, dragon-guarded castle and convince her to marry Farquaad. On their quest, Shrek and Donkey run into a number of bizarre situations, and Shrek finds himself realizing that he isn't quite the fearsome monster he has always made himself out to be.
It’s always good to take something original and surround it with the things you know. Shrek does exactly that, thanks to that wonderful thing called “public domain.” But it’s more than that, everything is twisted and portrayed in a stylish, update that remains loyal to it’s source material, takes a fresh angle and points out the holes of it’s history.
The Story: Shrek is hanging out in his swamp. Lord Farquad muscles out all of the fantasy characters and so they move in. After proving how much he can kick the crap out of the Lord’s guards, Shrek strikes a deal. If he rescues the princess for the Lord, the Lord will then evict the fantasy characters from Shrek’s swamp. Which to many of the audience members, seems messed up. But for Shrek? Small price to pay to remain on his lonesome. With his new annoying sidekick Donkey (annoying to Shrek, not to us) Shrek battles dragons and other mystical characters and stories to get the girl. The great thing about the story is that while they could have dragged this “adventure” on and on with dozens of characters and stories, they make note to stick to the ones only necessary and entertaining. Dialogue is crafted perfectly to make the story work and also to make jokes that go right over the kids heads but the parents will love. It really is “fun for the whole” family because the film makers know how smart their audience is – both of them.
Acting: I still don’t know why Shrek has that accent. Mike Myers seems to be addicted to accents. They never, ever stop. It’s one of the few things I *don’t* like about this film/series. Cameron Diaz is fun and bubbly, and gives good life to her character. John Lithgow has a natural arrogance that he is able to portray so that works perfectly for the short Lord with a big complex. The outstanding role really goes to Eddie Murphy though. While he’s annoying to the characters in that world, he’s a lot of fun for the audience. He never stops talking. In fact, one could argue that he’s not actually annoying, he’s only perceived that way because Shrek is agitated constantly and through contrast he looks that way. Whichever way you cut it, it works and does so perfectly.
Directing: There are two directors, but I can only address it as one job. Everything is fun and the pace keeps moving. The characters are strong and the world is magnetic. You can’t look away. Because this is animation, and I know nothing about the differences of directing animation in contrast to film, I wouldn’t know where to begin. All I know is, I was entertained. Great success.
Cinematography: Again, it’s animation. But the lighting is fun and the shot direction works. It’s the color palette that bothers me. Sometimes it feels like things are too bland. The contrast levels could have been stronger and a more intense color palette. It’s more of a nitpick than anything else, but still.
Editing: The pace is strong and keeps on point. While that is a great work in itself, that’s only for the overall story/film. In terms of scene by scene, I wouldn’t say the work itself is stellar. It’s very straightforward with what seems to be little motivation besides “we’re supposed to see that.” One of the many problems since animation depends greatly on storyboards and sticking to the plan.
Score: One of my favorite things about this film is the score. It’s really the heart of all the “fun.” But animated scores and songs are always fun. They breathe life into scenes and are structured around in the film.
In closing: Shrek is a bold, original, fresh, loyal, parody, morality, musical tale all spun into one. The makings of what most fairy tales are supposed to be. Only this is a fairy tale made up of fairy tales. Whoever conjured up that concept is a sheer genius.