Rated PG - Running Time: 1:27 - Released 5/18/01

Cartoon animated fairy tales are nothing new in the family market. But Shrek, the twisted, off-the-wall comedy starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz, is anything but conventional. As has been the tradition with animated features distributed by Dreamworks SKG, this film may not be considered perfectly appropriate for little children (a fact which may annoy some parents who think that any cartoon should be a children's film), but it is altogether hip and clever, and the computer-generated 3-D animation is impeccably crisp and colorful. It is directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson (their joint debut), and written by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (the team behind The Road to El Dorado), and several others, based on the book by William Steig.

I don't know if the story of Shrek is supposed to have taken place a long time ago, or in a galaxy far, far away, or simply once upon a time, but it is set in the mythical kingdom of Duloc, which is populated by every fairy-tale character you can think of, from Snow White to Pinnochio to the Three Little Pigs. Living alone in a remote swamp is Shrek (voice of Myers), who happens to be an ogre. Sporting a large green frame, a big, bulbous nose, and strange, trumpet-shaped ears, he is not particularly attractive in the classic sense. As a result of this (or maybe it's his thick Scottish accent), he is usually not accepted by those around him, and so he has learned to keep to himself. This is why he so jealously guards the swamp he calls home, sending would-be intruders away with an impressive growl and a gnashing of teeth.

The central village of Duloc, which bears a striking resemblance to a similar "magic kingdom" run by a famous large-eared mouse, is presided over by the selfish and diminutive Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), who harbors an open antipathy for fairy tales. Speaking from the courtyard of his very tall, non-descript castle, which resembles the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA, Farquaad issues a proclamation banishing all the fairy-tale characters to the very same swamp that Shrek calls home. One of these creatures is a talking donkey (Murphy), who befriends the ogre and follows him to Farquaad's castle to contest the Lord's decision. After a WWF-style fight between Shrek and the royal guards, Farquaad decides he is stalwart enough to fight the dragon that guards the tower where the fair Princess Fiona resides. So a deal is made: if Shrek rescues the princess for Farquaad to marry, his swamp will be returned to him without so much as a dwarf left on the premises (who knows what sort of "final solution" is planned for the multitude of hapless creatures). But when Shrek and his donkey finally meet Princess Fiona (Diaz), she turns out to be very different from what they (or you or I) expect.

Shrek is a fun movie, brimming with satire and in-jokes (and a fantastic cover of the Monkees' "I'm A Believer" at the end), but it also features the kind of potty/bodily function humor that has become so popular of late. Again, this may turn off parents who expect a squeaky-clean children's movie, but Dreamworks has never adhered to that mold. There are some truly twisted jokes, but in the end the film gives us a self-esteem building message much more up-to-date than those of traditional fairy tales. Myers's interpretation of the title character is fun and amiable, even though the part was originally meant for the late Chris Farley, who apparently recorded the dialogue before he died. Murphy is his humorous self, and Diaz is properly cool and self-sufficient for a modern-day heroine. ****

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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