You know you’ve seen something special when it still makes you smile a weekafter you see it. Such is the case with Shrek, the wonderful new animatedcomedy that will amuse and delight viewers of all ages. A superb combinationof a hilarious and smart screenplay, a talented voice cast and the bestcomputer animation to hit the big screen to date, Shrek is going to make alot of people happy this summer.
Based on the 1990 book by William Steig, the movie is about an ogre namedShrek (voiced by Mike Myers), a creature who greatly values his privacy.When an arrogant little prince by the name of Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow)banishes the fairy tale inhabitants of his kingdom to Shrek’s private swamp,the ogre goes to protest. Farquaad promises to remove the inhabitants ifShrek rescues the lovely Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a dragon-guardedtower so Farquaad can marry her and become King. With a talking donkey(Eddie Murphy) as his sidekick, Shrek heads off on the adventure of his lifetime.
First time directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, along with scriptwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Russo (Aladdin), Joe Stillman and Roger S.H.Schulman, use Steig’s story as a springboard to launch the multitude ofsight gags and satirical jabs at the fairy tale genre, motion pictures andrival studio Disney, all to a successful, hilarious effect (film producerand former Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg must have had a field day helpingout on this one). A few jokes fall short simply because they already seem abit on the dated side (jokes involving The Matrix, The Riverdance and thedance the Macarena), but overall this is a film that takes its concept andfully develops it with style, astuteness, drollness and heart.
Visually, the movie is nothing short of breathtaking. Everything, from thebackgrounds to the skies to the characters, comes to vivid three-dimensionallife thanks to the outstanding work by the folks at PDI (who have made anextraordinary leap in quality from their first feature, the 1998 comedyAntz). The folks who did a half-assed job putting the Rock’s face on a giantscorpion’s body in The Mummy Returns could have taken a lesson or two fromthese people when it came to realistically rendering humans and their facialexpressions. This is truly a visual sight to behold.
Donning a brogue yet again (this one a mix of Scottish and Irish), MikeMyers gives the character of Shrek solid comic timing while also making himquite appealing despite his rather repugnant exterior. Eddie Murphy bringsthe same type of rapid-fire humor he did to 1998′s Mulan, making for anexcellent sidekick. John Lithgow brings just enough menace to Farquaad withhaving to go overboard (which is nice to see Lithgow do for once) to makehim truly despicable, while Cameron Diaz plays Fiona with an ideal blend ofliveliness and heart.
The moral of Shrek’s story is that beauty lies within. As for Shrek themovie itself, its beauty is found within its rich screenplay, rock-soliddirecting, wonderful voice cast and extraordinary visuals. In a year thathas been so far devoid of quality product, this is a film to seek out,treasure and enjoy again and again.