Film review – Shrek (2001)

Adapted from William Steig’s children’s book, and directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, Shrek is the very funny computer animated tale of an ugly green ogre, Shrek (Mike Myers), who has to “save” Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who is anything but a damsel in distress. In return the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) promises to re-locate all the fairy-tale characters that have been deported to Shrek’s swamp. Shrek is aided by the smart-ass (pun intended) Donkey (Eddie Murphy) who steals the film with his best performance in years.

The computer animation is fantastic, and sets new standards in attention to detail, texture and movement. The stunning background art blends naturally into the foreground creating a beautiful sense of flow and rhythm to the action.

Although marketed at younger audiences, there is much to be enjoyed in Shrek by all ages. There are several moments of black-humour, usually involving unusual cruelty to animals, and clever references to other films and cultural phenomenon as diverse as studio audiences and professional wrestling. However it is Disney animation that suffers the most, as Shrek constantly ridicules their sweetened version of fairy-tales.

The lack of manipulative sentimentality in Shrek allows for the more serious moments to be genuinely touching and meaningful. Shrek’s central message is that beauty comes from within and we should never judge people on appearances. This message is never forced, nor is it compromised by its clever conclusion, that puts Beauty And The Beast, the thematically similar Disney film, to shame.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 128, 2001

© Thomas Caldwell, 2001