stars out of 5
Hugely enjoyable CGI animation flick with a neat line in irreverent humour – a witty script, impressive, colourful animation, terrific vocal performances and lots of laugh-out-loud gags, this looks set to become the biggest hit of the summer.
Shrek (voiced in a thick Scottish accent by Mike Myers) is a big, green, grumpy ogre who wants nothing better than to live in his swamp, away from human contact. Unfortunately, one day, he wakes up to discover that evil Lord Farquaad (examining the pronunciation of that name is probably ill-advised), voiced by John Lithgow, has banished all fairy-tale characters (including the three blind mice, the three little pigs etc) from the land, leaving them nowhere else to stay but –yes- chez Shrek.
With the aid of his (unwanted) sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy, firing on all comic cylinders), Shrek sets off to cut a deal with Farquaad and agrees to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a dragon’s lair…
Part of the fun comes from the film’s healthy irreverence towards
traditional Disney-style fairy-tale cartoons. Indeed, although the actual story comes from a children’s book by William Steig, the film-makers have included several hefty pot-shots at the House of Mouse and proceed to take the "Mickey" quite spectacularly.
For example, we see Gepetto selling Pinocchio, aspersions are cast on Snow White for ‘living with seven guys’, and a sugar-and-spice duet between the Princess and a songbird ends with one of the funniest gags of the year. Even Robin Hood is recast as an arrogant river-dancing Frenchman, in one of the film’s best sequences.
Basically, there is something for everyone here, whether it’s fart jokes for the kids, spoofs of the Matrix and action movies for the teens (Shrek fleeing an enormous Dragon fireball in slow-motion is an inspired visual gag), or sly tradition-skewering humour for adults.
The film isn’t entirely without flaws, however – for one thing it peaks too early with the (admittedly spectacular) dragon sequence, since nothing that follows matches up to that, and there aren’t enough set-pieces in general. Also, the use of modern music is slightly jarring, despite the catchiness of the tunes, though this does have a worthwhile pay-off at the end of the film.
In general, though, these are small quibbles and won’t spoil your overall enjoyment of the film. It also has a strong message that isn’t over-played and a nice twist on the conventional endings of these things.
To be fair, it’s not quite in the same ‘instant classic’ league as Pixar’s Toy Story, but kids will adore it nonetheless, and it will be a hard-hearted adult indeed that doesn’t find themselves chuckling out loud at this – it will certainly do until Monsters Inc. comes out later this year. Recommended.