Director: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
Synopsis: The carefully-protected solitary life of a grungy but soft-hearted ogre named Shrek comes under attack when a troupe of fairy-tale creatures invades his swamp home after being evicted from their own homes by the diminutive control-freak Lord Farquad, the ruler of a nearby kingdom who is preparing to marry the beautiful and feisty Princess Fiona. Farquad responds to Shrek’s demands for the removal of the creatures from the swamp with a proposal: Shrek will rescue Fiona from her prison – a high tower in a castle guarded by a fire-breathing dragon – and deliver her safely back to Farquad in exchange for the restoration of Shrek’s peaceful home. Shrek and his newfound (but unwanted) ally Donkey succeed in rescuing Fiona, but Shrek’s trouble has only begun as he finds himself falling in love with Fiona himself before he can deliver her to her groom – a love that is secretly requited by Fiona, who herself has been keeping a long-held secret and is much more than she seems.
Review: Much of Shrek succeeds thanks largely to the merits of its well-written characters and their talented performers. The dialogue for all of the characters, particularly Donkey (portrayed by Eddie Murphy), is so witty and outright funny that one can’t help have a good time watching the film. And this applies to kids and adults alike. Although the film’s story environment is clearly aimed at children – with princesses, dragons, and characters like Pinocchio and the seven dwarves in supporting roles – the humor is geared at even larger audiences, with several of the cultural-reference or innuendo jokes going right over children’s heads but earning big laughs from adults.
Both the humor and the tone are somewhat unexpected given the fairy-tell setting, with a good deal of snarkyness and crudeness permeating the script – though never in a way that defeats the film’s purpose, and in fact serving to support it. The choice of an ogre as the main protagonist – a creature largely defined by its grotesqueness and outward undesirability – in a large sense reflects the challenging nature of the film’s ogre-inspired premise, summarized by Shrek himself in a key scene with Donkey: “Ogres are like onions. They have layers.” Not everything is quite what it seems on the surface – sometimes even a fairy tale. It is this creative reexamination and retelling of a classic fairy tale story that makes Shrek stand out from many other animated features and earn a well-earned place in audience’s hearts.