Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shrek (2001)

“By night one way, by day another. This shall be the norm.
Until you find true love’s first kiss, then take love’s true form.”
- Princess Fiona

Title: Shrek
Genre: Animation (Yes, in my world animation is its own genre.)
Year: 2001
Rated: PG

Mike Myers as Shrek
Eddie Murphy as Donkey Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad

Plot: In order to regain his beloved swamp, an ogre journeys with an annoying donkey to rescue a princess and bring her to a diminutive, scheming ruler.

Tagline: The greatest fairy tale never told.

First Viewing: Theater, Memorial Day Weekend, 2001. 
Added to The List: 2001 (7th Grade)

Because Shrek is my maiden voyage into this scary realm of reviewing my favorite movies, it will probably be one of my weakest reviews. Basically, I had a notebook beside me as I watched this movie and jotted words whenever something struck my fancy. So, to begin this critique, I will go down my hastily scribbled list of Shrek's likeable qualities.

First and foremost, the score is amazing. It starts along with Dreamworks's logo and from the first notes you know even if the movie sucks, the music will be beautiful. The score is credited to two men: Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell. After skimming their IMDb pages, I found Mr. Gregson-Williams was also the composer of the equally fanciful and epic score of both of Disney's "Chronicles of Narnia" movies and Mr. Powell is behind many of Dreamworks's other animated features. The score has many different melodies (movements? I don't know music) each one befitting to the moment. I'm a fan of the main "love theme" and the pensive tune that plays while Shrek makes his dinner. The score is mature, whimsical and romantic all at once. The music tells you that even though there are several fart jokes here and there, Shrek has a heart and a meaningful story.

One thing Shrek is known for (and therefore, something Dreamworks is known for) is giving Disney a pie in the face. Let me be clear: I love Disney. I was raised on it. Many aspects of my personality are directly correlated with how much Disney I watched as a child. Most of Shrek's parodical jokes are taken from Disney's versions of famous fairy tales such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and probably most of all, Beauty and the Beast.

In defense of Disney, I would like to point out the following folly: Near the beginning of the film when Donkey is being sold to Farquaad's men, he is sprinkled with Tinkerbell's pixie dust and begins to fly. He quotes "You may have a seen a house fly, maybe even a super fly, but I bet you ain't never seen a donkey fly!" This, of course, is a parody of a line in Dumbo. Any true Disney fan should laugh snidely at this line, because any true Disney fan has seen 1945's The Three Cabelleros, which features a segment about a flying donkey named Burrito.

So suck it, Dreamworks.

All jesting aside, I understand this satirical take on Disney's classics, particularly when it comes to the leading lady, Princess Fiona. Let's be honest, Disney's early princesses aren't the toughest of heroines. For example, after running from the evil queen's huntsman, Snow White cowers and weeps on the forest floor until her fuzzy forest friends help her. When Fiona is "captured" by the way-too-merry-if-you-know-what-I-mean Robin Hood, she literally "goes Medieval" on everyone's ass with stylized martial arts. She even takes out the accordian playing Friar Tuck. Anyone who has the balls to take out a friar is badass in my book. I mean not to begrudge Snow White. She is truly a great heroine in many respects. Fiona simply relates to my 21st century sensibilities more.

Still, Fiona isn't what I'd call a feminist...she wants a man, more than anything actually. Her main goal throughout the film is to find True Love's First Kiss. And Fiona enjoys other "princessy" past times such as singing with woodland creatures and preparing breakfast for her rescuers. Dare I say, she is the perfect mix of fairy tale princess and modern day woman.

I have to admit, one of the major reasons I like Shrek is because it shares the same message as my favorite movie, Beauty and the Beast. And, of course, that message is beauty is found within. In the case of this film, both characters look past the other's physical flaws and fall in love with their "true form." And Fiona comes to understand her inner beauty and acceptance of Shrek means more to him than being physically gorgeous ever would. On a more personal note, the fact that I was going through my "ugly phase" when this film came out, probably adds to my love for it.

To get away from the mushiness, Shrek was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The other two films nominated in 2001 were Monsters, Inc., which, to be perfectly honest, I haven't seen for years and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, which is positively dreadful. In my opinion, both of those films (and most animated films, for that matter) pale in comparison to Shrek. As I end this review, ponder this: Beauty and the Beast is, to this date, the only animated featured to be nominated for Best Picture. Was it because Shrek shares such a common theme that it was chosen as the first Best Animated Feature? Or is it mere coincidence?'s probably just the smartass donkey.

Favorite ScreencapObviously, this isn't a real screencap from the movie. It's two that I cut and pasted together to give you and idea of my favorite shots. I love the "Hallelujah" sequence and the way Shrek's world fades into Fiona's and vice versa. My copy of Shrek is on good ole' VHS, and so I was unable to make perfect screencaps on my computer. I appologize. Maybe one day I'll replace it.

Next Film: Son-in-Law

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