Shrek is the best kind of animated film. It is family friendly enough to be accessible to kids, while also intelligent enough to not feel insulting to their parents. The jokes are aimed at both age groups, with some being easy kiddie jokes and others that will fly right over the heads of the children who want to see it. Here is a film aimed at everyone, and easily watchable by everyone. It is simply fun.
Shrek is not, however, as action-packed as you might expect. The story is simple, and there aren’t many massive set-pieces. If you’re watching this movie to see animated models fighting it out in massive action scenes … well, you’ll get that for some of the time, but you’ll be disappointed on the whole. This is an adventure film, one that doesn’t take its characters all that far away from home, and one that also moves at a very quick clip. There is no meandering in the Shrek universe, especially when such high (but in reality, low) stakes are up for grabs.
As the title gives away, our main character is named Shrek (voiced of Mike Myers, doing his very best Scottish accent). He’s an ogre living in a swamp, although he has a good sense of humor about him. An early scene presents us with some men wielding pitchforks and torches, attempting to make him flee from his home. He ends up sneaking up behind them, terrifying them, and then telling them that “this is the part where you run away.” He’s a reclusive ogre, and he doesn’t like it when people intrude onto his land.
This proves problematic when seemingly everyone sets up camp in his swamp. He was confused at first, considering swamps are generally not a place one would like to set up camp, but it’s soon all explained: Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) has decided to put a ban on all fairy tale creatures, and has forced them onto Shrek’s land. This gives Shrek a reason to go talk with the despicable Farquaad, and also gives him a reason to listen to the Lord’s request. Shrek is joined by a talking donkey aptly named “Donkey” (Eddie Murphey), and soon enough, the two are off to find out just why Farquaad has dumped all of these creatures on Shrek’s land.
Not that it really matters. The whole “I hate fairy tale creatures” idea more or less gets chucked out the window as soon as Shrek reaches the castle. In order for him to get his land back, Shrek will have to risk his life, rescue a princess named Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and bring her to Farquaad. Only then will the Lord give him back his swamp. So, off on a journey we will go, braving dragons, thieves, and a twist that one of the characters is hiding from everyone else.
After the princess gets saved, we’re only about half of the way into the film. There are still 45 more minutes, and there’s only one more action scene left. I think better spacing and planning would have been a good idea here. It’s not necessary for older viewers, I don’t think, as they’ll appreciate the events that transpire once princess has been removed from tower, but younger audiences won’t enjoy the tone shift and the lack of general excitement. Shrek becomes more a of a drama in this section, and it ends up suffering because of that change.
I really don’t want to ruin this part of the film, but the long story shortened is that character relationships begin to form and take the place of the action scenes. This wouldn’t be a problem at all if the drama wasn’t drawn-out for too long to make it worth caring about. It needed to be about half the time it ended up being, even if the twist does help to save it from falling into a pit of unsalvageable films.
For the most part, though, this is a smart, funny motion picture that enjoys taking shots at classic fairy tales. You’ll see character like the Gingerbread Man, the Three Blind Mice, the Three Little Piggies, and so on, all make appearances. They’re not exactly prominent characters, but their dialogue is enjoyable and seeing them act somewhat differently from what you’d expect is always fun to see. Combine that with a tight script that has enough jokes for all levels of age and maturity, and you’ve got a killer idea.
This is also a film that looks gorgeous. The animation is smooth, the character models are detailed, and while you’re always aware that you’re watching an animated film, a world is crafted for you to enjoy. You can manage to become immersed in such a creation, despite the fact that it’s not live-action, and you can definitely appreciate the artistry that went into its creation. The voice actors all give their roles life and energy. Eddie Murphy, despite occasionally becoming more of an annoyance than something to enjoy, is the most lively, and also gets many of the film’s best jokes.
Shrek is an enjoyable animated film for everyone. It is smart, funny, and while it will obviously appeal to children, it doesn’t dumb down its content to make it inaccessible to adults. The animation is beautiful, and the world that’s created is something that you want to spend a lot of time within. While it does begin to unravel near its conclusion as we stop getting action and move more into dramatic territory, this is still a very fun film that anyone can enjoy.