The dominating Walt Disney company will be finally looking up at Dreamworks, and will also be watching as it is made fun of in Shrek, a computer-animated comedy starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow. Walt Disney has all but controlled the cartoon industry, but it will take a backseat to this one, which has more than enough laughs to go around.
The plot is simple: A really short wannabe King (Lithgow) has exiled all of the fairy tale creatures in the land to a swamp, where the ogre Shrek just happens to live. Angry, he goes to the King to get them off his property, and ends up going on a quest to save a beautiful princess, whom he ultimately falls in love with.
Shrek is like a tame, child version of Austin Powers. Sure, the visual effects are astounding and entertaining, but the real heart of the film, thankfully, lies in the dialogue and script. Fairy tales are made fun of left and right (one of the best being the 'torture' scene of the Gingerbread Man), but just listening to the characters talk to one another, especially between Donkey (Murphy) and Shrek (Myers), is great. The dialogue is smart and funny, much along of the lines of that popular Mike Myers franchise, only toned down for younger audiences. However, adults will appreciate the lines, probably a lot more than their children.
Myers and Murphy make this movie worth while. The non-stop tone of the Donkey fits exactly with Murphy's personality, making him perfect for the funniest role of the film. He has great lines and it is even fun to watch the Donkey wall around with his short, stubby legs. Myers, using the Scottish accent that we've heard in So I Married an Axe Murderer and Austin Powers, once again brings sarcasm to the screen, and he pulls it off in a way that shows just how into this movie he is. I think all the actors had fun with this film since they knew that it was going to be great.
Children will be entertained by some of the more simplistic dialogue and the adventure story that ensues, with Shrek battling everything from knights to a fierce, fire-blowing dragon. The movie has a deeper meaning about looks not mattering (what is on the inside matters), but also is funny the whole way.
Adults will like Shrek more than their children. In fact, Shrek is one of those films that is made for adults but is adequate for children, since much of its dialogue is aimed at the older audience, not so much in sexual suggestion but in various forms of double meanings that kids will not understand. There are some moments where Shrek seems like it should have censored itself a little more, or at least should have sat back and thought about its true audience. The scene where Shrek takes care of several knights via wrestling moves (including hitting a guy over the head with a chair) seemed like it didn't think its primary audience was young children.
Shrek is visually stimulating but dialogue-driven, and that is the perfect formula for a great movie. Being the third movie of the 2001 summer, Shrek is by far the best one I've seen so far, and probably will still rank up around there when August comes to a close. This is a movie that parents should want to take their children to, since they know that their kids will be entertained, and they will be even more.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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