A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Shrek

March 15, 2011

Shrek

I really enjoy the Shrek movies. Especially this first one. These movies are the main tent-pole of the Dreamworks SKG animation studios. Sort of the Dreamworks equivalent of the Toy Story movies. Although they don’t get better with each iteration the way the Toy Story movies do. They are, however, playful, clever, funny and even touching.

The story here, a fractured fairy tale about an Ogre given a quest to rescue a princess, is not really important. Indeed the movie has a sort of loosely plotted feel that comes of having too many writers. (It has seven different screenwriting and “additional dialog” credits.) There’s one particular moment in the film that illustrates this perfectly. Right after all the fairy tale creatures that have been rounded up by Farquaad’s men show up in Shrek’s swamp, where Farquaad has exiled them, there’s a scene of Farquaad torturing a gingerbread man to fin out their location. It’s a clear example of scenes from different scripts jammed together into the same final product. And you know what? In spite of the fact that it doesn’t make any sense at all it’s perfectly alright with me because it doesn’t have to make sense as long as it is funny. The jokes are far more important than the plot.

The jokes are numerous and funny. Mostly this movie is a big wet raspberry to Jeffry Katsenberg’s previous employers at Disney. From the very start it is filled with friendly jibes aimed at the Disney collection and it features characters based on everybody from Pinocchio to Snow White to Peter Pan. Lord Farquaad has declared that he wants his kingdom of Duloc to be a perfect place and has set about rounding up all the various fairy tale creatures that inhabit the magical kingdom. It’s the perfect opportunity for spoof and good natured ribbing and I enjoy every moment of it. Even better is when Shrek eventually reaches the perfect kingdom of Duloc and finds that it has qeue lines, big headed mascots, gift shops and an animatronic information kiosk that sings about the town in a manner quite reminiscent of Disney’s “It’s a Small World.”

So the plot may be non-sensical but the writing is sharp and clever. The other major draw for me to this movie is the wonderful animation on display. It’s not just that the tools available to the Dreamworks animators were cutting edge and the models are detailed and impressive. Oh, I appreciate the shaders used to give hair its sheen and shin pores (many of which can be seen rendering in real-time in Dragon Age II which I have been playing a lot today) but the actual animation itself is what I’m talking about here. The animators do a fantastic job of getting a real and funny performance from the rubbery CGI puppets they had to work with. There are a number of moments in the movie where Fiona or Shrek will pull a face and it just sells the character for me. (The look that Donkey and Shrek exchange behind Fiona’s back when she’s cooking them breakfast for example. It’s great.)

Then there’s the voice cast. Eddie Murphy can often get on my nerves, but here he’s brilliantly cast as a character that gets on everybody’s nerves, and it’s perfect. Mike Myers is charming and funny and even manages to give Shrek a tender side. Cameron Diaz does a great job expressing through her voice Fiona’s frustration that her fairy tale story is going so wrong. And John Lithgow plays a great bombastic power mad dictator.

This is a charming movie. A fun spoof of fairy tale conventions which may not have much in the plot department but succeeds brilliantly at making the audience laugh and even care about its peculiar characters. It even has a nicely non-Hollywood message about accepting your flaws and realizing that there’s more to a person than conventional beauty. Certainly enough other people must have been charmed as I was to result in the many sequels – which we’ll be reviewing over the next few days.

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

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