With the Voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and others

My Rating:

An animated fairy tale, hip enough for the Austin Powers demographic.

Bitable Bytes:
"This Movie [Is] Fun!"
"Ancillary Marketing Gold Mine!"
"Murphy's motor-mouth comedy was never any better, nor more relentless."
"...Good and Mellow...!"

What to do while watching:
Play sound engineer and "ride gain." This means carefully monitoring and freely adjusting the volume knob, making the sound louder in parts (most parts of the movie) and softer in other parts (when Eddie Murphy is speaking).

What to eat while watching:

I was told this film was fun for adults. I was told this by adults, who, clearly, thought it was fun. Don't get me wrong: fun is definitely fun, and they don't get much more fun than Shrek, the ancillary-marketing-gold-mine movie from DreamWorks. If you did like I do, and waited for it to come out on video, then you no doubt have already seen the broad grin set into the green chin of Shrek, the ogre, currently at video stores, and probably some fast food chain near you. And you may have wondered if the film was really as fun as all the fun-loving adults have made it out to be.

I'm here to tell you: this is a fun movie. It's the fanciful tale of an ogre who lives in the time and place where fairy tales are real. Children's author, and so much more, William Steig, wrote this wild take-off on the genre. What's the first fairy tale that pops into your head? Goldilocks? Sleeping Beauty? The Three Little Pigs? All these characters are in the movie. Think of a few nursery rhymes: Little Boy Blue, Little Bo Peep, Little Miss Muffet. All these little folks inhabit the world of Shrek, too.

But Shrek is an ogre and likes to live alone in his swamp as a professional scary monster. Life is good and mellow: he takes his daily bath in swamp slime, cooks up a snail pie, lights an ear-wax candle, and enjoys his own company. However, Prince Farquaar, the voice of John Lithgow, has some kind of evil disposition against all fairy tale beings and is in the process of confining them to a concentration camp. The fact that his castle looks a lot like Disneyland may be an homage, but reads more like a jab. So, I assume that Dreamworks is either a Disney rival or a recent-and-still-bitter Disney acquisition.

Anyhoo, the concentration camp for fairy-tale beings happens to be located in Shrek's swamp. And he's pissed. Shrek sets out on a quest to get his swamp back. He meets the prince, makes a good impression, and becomes a pawn of the prince on a new quest: to bring back the princess, Cameron Diaz's voice. First, though, he has to save her from a dragon and remove her enchantment: all this to get his own swamp back. Shrek determinedly sets out, but not before befriending a talking donkey, the voice of Eddie Murphy.

Now, I know that EM has a certain thing that he is known for and paid good money for. Was that him in Disney's Mulan as Mu Shu the Dragon, or was it a damn good imitation? No matter. All I want to say about that is, Murphy's motor-mouth comedy was never any better, nor any more relentless.

All kinds of unusual takes on the standard fairy tale continue to happen. The sleeping princess is really only pretending to be asleep. The dragon turns out to be a she-dragon with an eye for talking (endlessly talking) donkeys. Shrek starts to get twitterpated over the lass. And she, a character much more like Wendy Testeberger than Gwyneth Paltrow turns out to enjoy rattle-snake stew and kung-fu fighting as much as Shrek himself.

The verdict of fun? Yes. It's fun to watch all this silliness unfold, though one thing my adult eyes must be getting bad at is following the action of computer animation. I swear, it kind of made me a little dizzy.

The Mrs. has an ongoing problem with digitally animated films: that everything that happens in them happens to avatars constructed entirely of 1s and 0s. There's nothing human there. I pointed out that this isn't so much different from actors acting: the story is still happening to inventions, not real people. Mrs. Worsted insisted there was a difference between feeling sorry for Shrek and, say, Johnny Depp in Chocolat, even if it was too subtle and diaphanous for words. Anyway, she likes documentaries...

For me, I was fine with the entertainment, two-dimensional in spite of 3-D graphic effects. The jokes were jokey, the concept was kicky, and Myers accent (borrowed from Fat Bastard in Austin Powers II) did not flag. So if I was in the mood for something with a little more human significance, it was my own fault for picking the computer-generated ogre. Next time I'll try something that has never turned up on a Coca-Cola cup.

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For your collection: Shrek (VHS), Shrek (DVD)

Gooden's listening to: The Coup's Party Music

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