A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 380 – Shrek

Shrek – March 15th, 2011

I’ve always enjoyed a good twisted fairy tale. And there are plenty of examples out there. There’s Bubba, the Cowboy Prince, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, The Wolf Who Cried Boy. I could go on and on. It’s an entire genre unto itself and while this movie certainly did bring it to the big screen, it’s been around a lot longer. And like The Jolly Postman and its ilk, it doesn’t just take on a single specific story. It takes on the whole genre of traditional fairy tales and gives them a bit of a shake. Unlike the aforementioned story, however (which I highly recommend), this movie doesn’t just shake up the tropes and traditions. It sticks them in a blender.

The main character is the titular Shrek. He’s an ogre living alone in a swamp where he’s really quite happy. And then the local royalty, Lord Farquaad, decides to do away with anything in his kingdom that doesn’t fit his ideals of perfection. This includes pretty much any fairy tale type item or creature. Three little pigs? Yup. Seven dwarves? Yup. Fairies, gnomes, gingerbread men? All rounded up and exiled. And where do they go? You’ve got it – Shrek’s swamp. Of course Shrek isn’t happy about this and he sets off to demand that Farquaad evict them all and ends up set on a quest to rescue the princess Fiona from a tower guarded by a dragon. Followed by his trusty and talkative friend, Donkey, Shrek heads off to find Fiona and exchange her for his swamp.

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything really when I reveal that Shrek and Fiona end up falling for each other but oh! No! They can’t possibly be together! Not a simple ogre like Shrek and a beautiful princess like Fiona! No! Never mind that Fiona is not your typical princess. Aside from being able to belch along with Shrek, she enjoys many of the things he does and oh, right. She can kick your ass. Obviously there’s going to be a misunderstanding and a last minute wedding interruption and really? The plot is not doing anything truly revolutionary when it comes to the basic points. Quest to save a princess, unlikely hero, evil royalty, secret curse, true love. But well, replace the curse with torture and you’ve also got The Princess Bride and half a dozen other fantasy movies. It doesn’t mean they’re carbon copies of each other. The key is in taking those elements and combining them in such a way that you get a new take on it all, and that’s what this movie does.

I really enjoy the character of Fiona. She’s strong and assertive by the end, willing to speak her mind or kick your butt. She’s not delicate or wimpy. She’s got some issues to deal with that explain why she was in that tower in the first place when she hardly needed a big burly man to come save her. And as the movie goes on she becomes more and more comfortable being herself instead of the sort of princess everyone’s always expected. It’s a heavy handed message, but I still like it and I like how it was done.

I also like the humor of the movie. Sure, there are tasteless jokes a-plenty, but there’s also a lot of just flat out ridiculous fairy tale parody, delivered wonderfully by Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow. The exchange between Gingy the gingerbread man and Lord Farquaad, dramatically doing the Muffin Man bit, cracks me up every time. Every time the movie refers to something specific and then turns it upside down, I laugh. It’s got some dated jokes, but so what? It’s also got stuff that’s timeless because it’s all based on stories that have been around for ages. Speaking as someone who does a whole five week story time series with “fractured fairy tales”, I can say with confidence that kids get this sort of thing. And adults get it too. There’s more than enough double layered stuff in here to entertain both audiences.

Overall, it’s just plain fun to watch and I really do love the ending. It’s a great movie for a wide age range to watch, which is something I appreciate, working where I work. And it’s based on a children’s book! It even says so in the closing credits! “Based on the book by William Steig.” I dare you to go find the book. And I don’t mean the novelization of the movie, which is so bizarre to me since it’s based on a book in the first place. I mean the original. The picture book. Because this movie? Is a great example of taking a book’s concept and running it so far afield it’s almost unrecognizable, but in a good way. Because the book? Is so not the movie. But the movie? Takes exactly what cues were necessary from the book. And I applaud that.

March 15, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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