Shrek = Dreck

May 17, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great animation

Cons:Tired, cliched story, too much Eddie Murphy

The Bottom Line: Shrek's animation can't save a boring and tired story. Your kids may love it, but not enough to interest an adult.

I truly did want to jump on the bandwagon that is Shrek, as I am a big fan of animated movies. It has been lavished with a chorus of glorious reviews, and I feel like I’m the first person to say something negative about it. In fact, I’m the first person here at Epinions who doesn’t recommend Shrek. Mine may be a lonely voice in the wilderness, but I’ll go ahead and scream anyway.

Despite the animation,Shrek is nothing more than a cliched romantic comedy that happens to involve an ogre and a princess instead of John Cusack and Ione Skye. The only thing refreshingly different is the animation and a few jokes here and there – the story itself is strictly by-the-book. While the movie wasn’t painful to watch and it does have its moments, it nonetheless never drew me into itself. Coming on the heels of the disappointing The Mummy Returns, I’m left still waiting for a good summer blockbuster.

Our hero, Shrek, is an ugly, green-skinned ogre, who lives alone in his swamp in the land of Duloc. Shrek’s peaceful and tranquil life is interrupted when a mob of fairy tale creatures – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Three Blind Mice, The Three Bears of Goldilocks fame, etc. etc. - descend upon his humble abode. The fairy tale creatures have been driven into Shrek’s swamp by the diminutive, wanna-be king, Lord Farquaad, who feels they ruin the “imperfection” of the land of Duloc. Shrek strikes a bargain with Farquaad – he’ll fetch him the lovely Princess Fiona, if Farquaad will remove the fairy tale creatures from Shrek’s swamp. Two catches – the Princess is guarded by a dragon, and the Princess hides a secret of her own.

Once the rescue is accomplished, it’s purely a romantic comedy from that point, as Shrek and the Princess journey back to her impending marriage to Farquaad. All the cliches are there – they don’t like each other at first, Shrek overhears what he incorrectly assumes is the Princess bad-mouthing him, yada yada yada. Been there, done that, got John Cusack’s autograph. So essentially what we have are two back-to-back cliched storylines: #1, the unlikely hero braves the dragon to rescue the princess in the castle, followed by #2, the road flick where the two unlikely lovers fall for each other. Unlike the rest of the known world, I was not impressed.

Shrek is voiced in a Scottish brogue by Mike Myers. Myers evidently asked to redo his lines, costing the studio several million. It wasn’t money well-spent. Mike Myers needs the physical part of his acting to be truly funny – his voice alone here doesn’t do the trick. Eddie Murphy, as the voice of Shrek’s sidekick, the talking Donkey, does better, except that there’s too much of him. He prattles on and on, hitting a number of good lines, but some of his dialogue desperately needed to land on the cutting room floor. Eddie was seriously wearing me out before the movie was half-over. As for the supporting characters, John Lithgow does well as insipid Lord Farquaad, but Cameron Diaz did nothing to impress me as Princess Fiona.

The fairy tale characters provide most of the laughs here, although many of them are strange looking. The Disney characters in particular are drawn in a way as to let the viewer know who they are, without exactly looking like the original. No doubt this was by agreement with the almighty Mouse empire who didn't want their precious properties associated too strongly with a spoof, but the characters end up looking like Third World knock-offs. For me, it cheapened what was otherwise some excellent animation.

Kids will probably love this movie, with the ear-wax-picking, butt-scratching Shrek, the yammering Donkey, the fire-breathing dragon, and the beautiful Princess Fiona. The funniest scene for me, though, was Geppetto and Pinocchio. Watch for it, laugh, and then head for the lobby and watch the trailer for the Lord of the Rings again. It’s a better use of your time.

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