Picks and Pans Review: Shrek
He is mean, green and far from lean, but he's still the most appealing leading man to appear in movies since Toy Story's Woody. Shrek, the cranky creature at the center of this delightful and yet totally subversive animated feature from DreamWorks, is an ogre who lives in a swamp and, like Garbo, vants to be alone.
Shrek's problem is that he suffers from low self-esteem. He figures that his appearance (pea-soup coloring, bald pate, hulking yet stumpy build) puts people off. Rather than suffer the heartbreak of rejection, he has convinced himself he is happier alone. But as this computer-animated movie progresses, Shrek (voiced by Myers) learns that there are advantages to being different and that he can make friends, fall in love and, best of all, be loved in return.
Shrek imparts these worthy lessons with such rude humor and snarky cleverness that it never seems pedantic or preachy. This is one of the few family films that will keep adults as entertained as postkindergartners—honest—because it works on so many levels. At its simplest, it tells the story of how Shrek and a smart-mouthed donkey (Murphy), whom Shrek reluctantly allows to become his sidekick, rescue the lovely Princess Fiona (Diaz) from imprisonment in a castle guarded by a fire-breathing dragon.
At a deeper level, the movie tweaks the standard fairy tale by its tail. Shrek signals its intentions early: The first scene shows a close-up of a dreamy, ethereal princess in a storybook, only to have the camera pull back to reveal Shrek impatiently tearing pages out of the volume for toilet paper. Finally, Shrek is a Hollywood inside joke, with DreamWorks producer-studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg taking swipes at his former employer, Disney, with sly visual references to such Disney animation staples as Pinocchio, Cinderella and Snow White. No matter which level of the movie a viewer responds to, anyone past the age of 5 who doesn't laugh repeatedly while seeing Shrek needs to have his funny bone examined. (PG)
Bottom Line: Monstrously clever