of DreamWorks Shrek
Director: Andrew Adamson, Victoria Jenson
Writer: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Book by William
Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John
looks at first like a typical fairy tale--actually a collage
of the genre featuring the three blind mice, three little
pigs, Goldilocks' bears, Red Riding Hood's big bad wolf,
Pinocchio and Cinderella. Not long into the movie--which
features some impressive state-of-the-art cgi animation
giving a startling, lifelike appearance to both characters
and landscapes- we see that Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio's
screenplay from William Steig's book subverts one of the
principal conventions favored by the brothers Grimm in
their collection, "Kinder und Hausmarchen."
brothers shared Sir Arthur Gilbert's grim view of unattractive
women. In their sexist formulation, a homely woman could
never find love and marriage together with a trip to the
castle in a horse and carriage. That beauty is skin deep
seemed a foreign concept to these master story tellers.
Andrew Adamson and Victoria Jenson set out to make a more
politically correct tale. Shrek conveys a motif
that should put its young and impressionable audience
straight: one is beautiful if he or she is of wonderful
character. Heart and soul are more precious than derma
and cuticles. We may be at first attracted to others by
the symmetry of features, but for the honeymoon to last,
we must appreciate one another's inner qualities.
theme should be obvious to the most attention-challenged
seven-year old. Adamson and Jenson hammer in the strain
without subtlety. But since the journey is more important
than the destination and leitmotifs travel best if conveyed
by entertaining carriers, how well do they succeed in
putting on a show?
answer is mixed. Like Chicken Run (also distributed
by DreamWorks), Shrek is wicked, clever and funny,
conveying the feeling that this movie has been made by
human beings and not by machines. But something about
Peter Lord and Nick Park's year 2000 creation hit home
in a more trenchant way. I suppose the opening scene,
comparing the chicken coop to a Hitlerian concentration
camp with poultry faced with certain death, gave that
animated work its bite. Chicken Run is penetrating.
Despite its motif, Shrek is by contrast still a
fairy tale removed from human drama, its characters, despite
their sabotage of Grimm philosophy of beauty, always remote
creations of another world.
said, Shrek has quite a bit going for it, particularly
the perpetually amusing and sometimes even hilarious lines
for the Donkey, provided with crackerjack delivery by
Eddie Murphy. The Donkey, a Sancho Panza to Shrek's Don
Quixote, is not a stubborn creature at all. In fact he's
a friendly beast with expressive eyebrows and a Cairn
terrier's desire to please. Because he is a lonely animal,
he immediately bonds with Shrek, an outwardly ugly green
ogre who knows enough about the world to realize that
he has little chance to bond with any of the world's fairy
a delightful Scottish accent provided by Mike Myers, this
fluffy and horn-eared beast has none of the confidence
of Austin Powers, though his inventiveness is intriguing.
When he needs light for his hermit's cave, he simply plunges
a long finger into his ear and extracts sufficient wax
to produce a candle for his grotto. And he has impressive
strength. When the height-challenged Lord Farquar (John
Lithgrow) sends an army of knights to rid his feifdom
of what all consider a disagreeable demon, Shrek dispatches
the with the energy of Ang Lee's Yu Shu Lien. When Farqaad
sees that Shrek can gain for him the hand of an imprisoned
princess (Cameron Diaz), with whom a marriage would realize
the lord's ambition to become the king, he dispatches
the ogre to the palace to free the lovely woman with a
twenty-first century urban sensibility. No one suspects
that the princess has a secret fear of sunset that makes
her more vulnerable than Cinderella at midnight.
is fun but a film which despite its subversive theme will
not necessarily snatch the enthusiasm of the young, who
are too well accustomed to the fabulist types portrayed
in imposing computer generated graphics. Nor is there
much here that could gratify the adults who are taken
in hand by their tots and who have the right to expect
more grown-up double entendres than the exclamation by
the Donkey that Farquaad's lavish castle must be compensating
for his tiny (word blocked out). Given the team of actors
engaged successfully in the surprisingly difficult job
of doing voiceovers, Shrek would have been better
with a more vigorous script. As it stands, it falls short
of its tagline, "The greatest fairy tale never told."
PG. Running time: 90 minutes.
(C) 2001, Harvey Karten (republished with permission)
A few good reviewers. Simply take the time to write an
insightful review of Shrek then email it along
with your name and age (you must be over 13 to submit
a review) here.
Your review may be selected to appear on this dFX Shrek
to Reviews main page.