[box cover]


DreamWorks Home Entertainment

Starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz,
and John Lithgow

Written by Ted elliott and Terry Rossio
Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson

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Review by Betsy Bozdech                    

"Ogres are like onions. Onions have layers, ogres have layers."

— Shrek

"It's not evolutionary, it's revoloutionary."

— Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg on Shrek's animation

A Shrek-tacular Movie

He's big, he's green, and he's ugly, and he pulled in millions at the box office. Nope, not Yoda on steroids — Shrek. The Mike Myers-voiced ogre-with-a-heart-of-gold proved to be summer 2001's unlikeliest hero, charming both kids and their parents (and thousands of their parents' kid-less contemporaries) with his wittiness, bravery, and astounding mud-gargling abilities. Along with his motor-mouthed sidekick, Donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek muscled in where "event movies" like Tomb Raider and Planet of the Apes failed, proving that new technology and cool effects do not a blockbuster make — you need a good script and an engaging plot, too. (Go figure.)

Just as with Toy Story in 1995, audiences' (and critics') initial oohs and ahhs over Shrek's gorgeous, technically impressive computer animation — which, to be fair, is pretty amazing — were quickly eclipsed by their reaction to its funny, original story (based on the book by William Steig) and memorable characters. What's not to love? You've got Shrek, an irascible loner who lives quite happily in his slimy swamp until he reluctantly offers Donkey (who's fleeing for his life) sanctuary. That un-Shrek-like act of altruism leads to an invasion by a horde of displaced fairy tale creatures — witches, dwarves, fairies, blind mice, Pinocchio, etc. Seems that the pompous Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), bent on turning the realm of DuLoc into the perfect kingdom, has decided that all enchanted beings have got to go — and where better to exile them to than Shrek's swamp-sweet-swamp? Mad as hell and not willing to take it any more, Shrek confronts the Napoleonic Farquaad, and the two strike a deal: If Shrek rescues Farquaad's intended, Princess Fiona, from a dragon-guarded castle, the ogre can have his home back. Complications ensue when the feisty Fiona wins Shrek's heart; and then, of course, there's her little, um... complexion problem.

Shrek pretty much is the ultimate cracked fairy tale. And it works beautifully thanks to its abundant humor and excellent acting on the part of Myers, Diaz, Murphy, and Lithgow. The comedy kicks in almost immediately; the opening sequence in which Shrek showers in mud and brushes his teeth with green slime is guaranteed to leave kids howling. And the Gingerbread Man interrogation scene is hilarious perfection. But some of Shrek's best jokes are the ones decidedly geared toward adults: DuLoc's similarity to a demented Disneyland, for example, or when Shrek, upon seeing Farquaad's ridiculously tall castle, quips, "Gee, think he's compensating for something?" It's nice to have a few moments of edgier humor where the grown-ups giggle and the kiddies scratch their heads.

A Shrek-tacular Cast

Shrek's sweeter, quieter moments work, too, and that's mostly due to the movie's practically perfect casting. It's hard to imagine the late Chris Farley (who was originally slated to star) making Shrek as loveable as he is gross; Myers, with his Scottish brogue and flashes of vulnerable insecurity, pulls it off beautifully. Shrek's animators did a great job of letting Myers' mannerisms and expressions influence how they designed the big green ogre — at times you'd almost swear it's Myers in a latex mask rather than a computer generated image. Cameron Diaz's sunny, down-to-earth nature shines through in Princess Fiona, too; this Charlie's Angel was a perfect choice for the movie's unconventional, butt-kicking maiden. And John Lithgow's talent for over-the-top histrionics was never put to better use than here — his Farquaad is a delightfully demented villain with an ego that more than makes up for his, er, "short"-sightedness.

But perhaps the biggest stand-out is Eddie Murphy. His friendly, talkative Donkey gets most of the movie's biggest laughs, whether he's promising to make Shrek waffles or threatening the DuLocians with a "loaded dragon." Murphy's inspired work in Shrek is similar to his equally successful sidekick turn as Mushu in Mulan — he hasn't been this consistently funny in a live-action film in years. He's also the perfect foil for Shrek, forcing the ogre to admit that a little companionship isn't such a bad thing and cheerfully sticking by his side through thick and thin. As much as it's an adventure and a romance, Shrek is also a buddy film, and it's a great one. Here's hoping the plans for a sequel pan out; if the folks at PDI/DreamWorks could do as well by Shrek 2 as the Pixar people did with Toy Story 2, we'd all be in for a big green treat.

A Shrek-tacular DVD

Making its way to the top of the DVD best-seller lists as easily as Shrek takes out Farquaad's knights at the tournament, DreamWorks' two-disc special edition has almost as many layers as ogres and onions — including a commentary, full- and wide-screen versions of the movie, interactive games, and more. You don't get as much detail on the "making-of" side of things as you do with the Toy Story, Bug's Life, and Final Fantasy discs, but there's still plenty to enjoy. Here's how it breaks down:

Disc One

Disc Two

Other extras include illustrated hints for the Shrek X-Box video game, the theatrical trailer, a short-but-interesting featurette about re-casting/dubbing the characters' voices for international versions of the movie, and another link to the DVD-ROM materials. The production notes and cast/filmmaker bios make another appearance on this disc (though they're designed differently, and the character interviews aren't included), as does the swamp dance-party sequence. Look for more hidden making-of factoids, too.

— Betsy Bozdech

Disc One

Disc Two

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