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Digital Media FX Shrek Movie Review
by Joe Tracy, publisher of Digital Media FX

dFX's Rating Review of Shrek

In his review of Shrek for Daily Variety, Todd McCarthy calls the movie "an instant animated classic." Is it? No, it isn't; but Shrek is one fun animated journey that's quite a sight to behold. It may not be an instant animated classic, but it proves to be an instant animated challenge to Disney's animation empire.

Shrek, produced by PDI/DreamWorks, wastes no time in making big impressions. The opening credits for the movie are absolutely incredible. The opening credits interact with Shrek's environment (often using PDI's proprietary Fluid Animation System) and is pulled off so well that it is easily the best animated opening credits ever created.

The rest of the movie is simply a fun and enjoyable comedy that is pulled off with good precision. By far, the best casting decision was Eddie Murphy as Donkey who helps to carry the humor throughout the entire story. Murphy seemed a bit outcast as Mushu in Mulan (a drama), but in Shrek (a comedy), Murphy shines.


The Story

In its most basic form, Shrek is an "ugly duckling" type story where an ugly ogre amplifies his ugliness by being mean and hateful. The ogre (named Shrek) wants to be a loner and has his fun by scaring people off his property.

Early on, Shrek finds himself invaded by fairy tale creatures and seeks out the ruler of the kingdom responsible for the problem, Farquaad, in order to get his property and privacy back. Farquaad never makes a deal in which there isn't something in it for himself, however, so he sends Shrek on a journey to find a princess that will increase Farquaad's stature (pun intended).

In Shrek, the story takes a back seat to the comedy, which is what carries the movie and makes it so entertaining. The moral message in Shrek is nothing new - "beauty comes from within."

Here's a more complete breakdown of the film:


The Great
There is a lot to love about Shrek:

1. The comedy is great. Not all the jokes hit the mark, but most do. Since Shrek is a parody of fairy tales, the variety of jokes are enhanced by the audiences past backstory knowledge of the fairy tale creatures. A sequence with a surprise ending between a songbird and Princess Fiona had the audience at the press screening I attended in both laughter and shock (at the same time), adding extra value to the emotional experience.

2. The backgrounds are beautiful. DreamWorks has always done well with its backgrounds and color choices. Shrek carries on that process, giving audiences that extra aspect that makes the film even more enjoyable.

3. The characters are well drawn. An array of recent animated films have sacrificed the quality of their character drawings (calling it a "style" decision) creating an environment that is hard to believe. From square chins to square hands, the "style" of other animated films have been a great disappointment. That isn't the case with Shrek. Shrek delivers character drawings that are realistic within the fantasy environment it has created. This adds to the realism of the production and enjoyment of the film.

4. The animation is strong. From grass and mud to water and movement, the animation in Shrek is strong with the quality of work showing. While some may be nitpicky on issues like human movement (which is hard to master even for the Final Fantasy team), the delivery of all the animation in Shrek is strong and the best to be delivered animation-wise to theaters in quite awhile (at least since the last Pixar movie).


The Average
It seems that the pop songs in Shrek were thrown in only for the sake of a hot-selling soundtrack. While the songs in Shrek do a better job at helping the story than the pop songs in A Knight's Tale, a few of the songs simply seem... well... out of place. Yet others do a good job of enhancing the story (i.e. the Hallelujah song segment).


The Poor
There are two items that seemed very much out of place for the film:

1) The end song. At the end of Shrek, Donkey sings an upbeat song that seems just thrown into the movie without any purpose or advancement of the film, creating a temporary pause until the credits role (even though it is still entertaining to watch). It is much out of place like Disney's Mulan, which did the exact same thing.

2) Beauty and the Beast replica. There is a scene near the end of the movie that doesn't play like a parody, but rather like an exact replica of a scene from Beauty and the Beast which had those with me at the press screening exclaiming, "oh, brother" versus laughing. While the parody in Shrek is pulled off with great precision and humor throughout the entire movie, this one scene seemed misplaced.


The Disney Factor
Much has been made about DreamWorks' jabs against Disney in Shrek. The hype in this aspect has been so strong that when you view Shrek, you'll see that the hype was overblown. Yes, there are fun and gentle jabs taken at Disney characters and Disneyland. However, only in one instance is the imitation (remember, imitation is a form of flattery) way overdone. That is a scene at the end of the movie that nearly identically replicates a scene from Beauty and the Beast in a way that makes it feel more uncomfortable than funny. The few other moments are carried off well and greatly enhance the parody that Shrek tries to achieve.

It should be noted that Disney fairy tale characters aren't the only ones that are given jabs in this comedy.


Warning to Parents
I would strongly advise, if you are a parent, that you see Shrek before deciding whether or not to take your kids to see this movie (if you do decide to take your kids, you'll equally enjoy it a second time). If you normally take your kids to PG movies, then Shrek should not be an exception. However, if you don't, then you should be forewarned that there are some mild language situations, humor situations, and mild sexual references that you may be uncomfortable with your child viewing. For example:

- The word "a*s" is said about four times in the movie with only one of those times being the equal reference to a donkey (Jack A*S).

- In one scene a dragon kisses Shrek's rear end (by accident, but it is clearly shown).

- In one scene, the donkey pees on a fire.

- Some of the songs have lyrics like, "I don't give a damn about my bad reputation."

It's clear that DreamWorks does not have the Pixar touch when making "children" movies because of the PG content. This will definitely offend some parents, but others may turn a blind eye to it because of the film's overall enjoyment factor. Still other parents may not find anything in the film objectionable.


Conclusion
Shrek is a shoe-in blockbuster at the box office and for good reason. It is a very enjoyable film that puts you in a world of parody never seen in animated form. The time and quality that went into the backgrounds, drawing, animation, and overall production really show in Shrek and add to the enjoyment.

With last year's Chicken Run and this year's Shrek, DreamWorks is really displaying an honorable array of overall quality production values in its animated movies.

Digital Media FX Magazine gives Shrek an 8.5 on a scale of 1 to 10.

dFX's Rating Review of Shrek

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