movie film review | chris tookey


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  Shrek Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
8.57 /10
Voices of:, Shrek: Mike Myers, Donkey: Eddie Murphy
Full Cast >

Directed by: Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson
Written by: Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman and Roger S.H. Schulman . Based on the book by William Steig

Released: 2001
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 90

Adventures of an ogre.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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A curmudgeonly ogre (with a Scottish accent, by courtesy of Mike Myers) finds that his comfortable if insanitary swamp is being taken over by immigrants. These include three very blind mice, a trio of homeless pigs, not to mention a transvestite wolf in his bed.

Shrek travels to confront the local bad guy, a dead ringer for Olivier's Richard III called Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), who has ethnically cleansed nursery characters from his kingdom, so that it resembles a squeaky-clean, more openly fascistic version of Disneyland. But Lord Farquaard's talking mirror (evidently liberated from the Wicked Queen's castle in Snow White) reminds him that he's not a King yet. To become truly royal, he must marry a princess.

Three suitable candidates are presented to Farquaard on his personal production of Blind Date - Cinderella (but he's warned that she's damaged goods, having been abused in childhood), Snow White ("she lives with seven men, but she's not easy") and a redhead called Princess Fiona. He chooses the one who hasn't taken the title role in a Disney picture.

However, Farquaard is far too cowardly to go on a quest for the maiden himself. He prefers to amuse himself by torturing gingerbread men and, in true Hollywood executive style, humiliating anyone who is taller than he is (which means just about everyone).

So he strikes a bargain with Shrek, whereby the swamp will be cleared of nursery characters if the ogre and his sidekick, a won't-stop-talking cowardly donkey (Eddie Murphy), will rescue Princess Fiona from the castle where she is held prisoner by a dragon…

This all-digital animation from Dreamworks follows in the footsteps of their own Antz. Fast, funny and technically brilliant, it's another step forward for the studio.

At first, I was a little disappointed. There's a second-rate rock soundtrack drawn from too many sources. And, as if to rub in how un-Disneylike the film is, too much of the humour early on dwells obsessively on bodily functions. The first lavatory and flatulence jokes occur within sixty seconds, and you don't want me to describe the earwax gag, especially if you're eating.

The malign influence of adolescent "gross-out" comedy can certainly be felt, and lets down the tone.

However, the raunchier humour will sail over most children's heads. Inventive sight gags, high-quality jokes (even Eddie Murphy is funny) and some inspired mickey-taking of Disney and fairy tale conventions come, gradually, into their own. Such is the profusion of gags, in fact, that a second viewing would probably be even more rewarding than a first.

Although there is an irreverence about the movie, it's not jaded or over-cynical. There's just enough magic and warmth, to stop it from being too clever (and politically correct) by half.

Because of a few errors of taste, Shrek didn't strike me as quite on a par with the Toy Story movies or A Bug's Life. Its subversion of myth and fairytale isn't on the same high level of wit or sophistication as Stephen Sondheim's musical Into The Woods, or the forgotten classics of the early 20th century author James Branch Cabell - but it's very enjoyable entertainment, nonetheless. Adults will find plenty to laugh at. Children will love it.

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