johnlink ranks SHREK (2001)

Liz and I were looking for a nice light film last night. She had recently mentioned wanting to see SHREK 3, but I wasn’t about to watch the THIRD movie in a series without first revisiting the others, that would be absurd (ps, IRON MAN 2 got a pass because I saw the first within the last two years). So, late on a Friday night we put in this piece of cultural history.

I watched SHREK (2001) on 5.8.10. It was my third viewing of the film, and the first in at least half a dozen years. TRAILER HERE

When I call this a piece of cultural history, I don’t throw that term around lightly. This film is etched in a time when the 90s were yielding to a new millennium. PIXAR was the computer animated king, with its kiddy cartoons winking knowingly at its adult audiences. Dreamworks came along and made SHREK, with a couple of voice actors who were at the height of their careers. Mike Myers, fresh off AUSTIN POWERS. Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy (yes kids, Eddie Murphy used to be funny) and some would even argue that John Lithgow was at the height of his popularity, even if some would say his best work would come years later in DEXTER.

There are elements of this film which are still timeless. The fairy tale stories will always work. References to Pinocchio, Snow White, and Cinderella are all going to be as effective in twenty years. There is certainly no holding back in the film’s derision towards Disney. Even the entrance to the castle of Lord Farquaad (get it, it’s a swear) looks like walking into Disney. Only this entrance is abandoned and creepy. It looks bright and pretty, but there is a definite sense of sadness and danger.

But the reason this film does not hold up like TOY STORY or MONSTER’S INC. has to do with two things. First, the computer animation is clearly underdeveloped. Pixar had already made fantasy worlds look much more real than this. Dreamworks’ work here is not poor, like say SPACE CHIMPS years later, but it is certainly not a film to display on a pedestal when it comes to computer graphics.

Secondly, the contemporaneous referencing just doesn’t hold. Things which are clearly now a decade old include the macarena,  the film BABE (many people don’t realize that the line ‘That’ll do donkey, that’ll do’, is a reference to BABE), the MATRIX fight, and Eddie Murphy being funny. There are many more, and much of it is now eye-rolling.

I also think the ‘adult humor’ is a little too adult in this. In TOY STORY we have Don Rickles using his famous line ‘Ya hockey puck’ to an actual hockey puck. Something no kid will get, but is there for the parents and grandparents. Harmless, referential humor. In SHREK we get Lord Farquaad getting a hard-on as he has the mirror replay images of Fiona. We have Robin Hood about to sing about getting head before changing a lyric at the last second. Things which don’t need to be in a kid’s movie. And I’m no prude. I know no kid will get it, its harmless in many ways. I admit that I may be a little off-base here, but it just rubs me the wrong way for some reason.

But enough negativity. The film still makes me laugh. I got a half-dozen good, solid laughs out of this film and many more chuckles. Mike Myers’ characterization is still funny, and his chemistry with Eddie Murphy (though they didn’t really work together) makes this film move. Even if Donkey talks so much that not all of it can be funny, there is still a lot to like.

I’m curious to watch the others now. I’d like to see if the second, made in 2004, is still relevant, or if it too has passed its prime. The third I haven’t seen at all. But I know this. When we watch TOY STORY in thirty years, it will hold up. Like SNOW WHITE or LADY AND THE TRAMP or THE LION KING, it will always be cherished. SHREK? It’ll be a window into a time when computers were beginning to be our main form of animation, and when Hollywood was starting to make kids movies for adults.


FILM: 3; MOVIE: 6; ACTING: 6; WRITING: 4 (What is this?)



~ by johnlink00 on May 8, 2010.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks SHREK (2001)”

  1. There’s no question that Pixar is in another league from Dreamworks.
    I loved the Incredibles and I keep asking, “when’s the sequel coming out?”. I’ve read some interviews where the director, Brad Bird was asked this question and he would aparently like to but hasn’t seen a script that isn’t stale rehash – his standards are high.
    With Shrek, Dreamworks found a formula and they’ve used it 3 more times. Guaranteed staleness. and as a result S3 was pretty poor. I thought that would be the end, but then S4 comes out now and I’m wondering why.
    Like you I still get a number of chuckles from the original and I think I will continue to do from time to time.

  2. I also LOVE the Incredibles and would love to see a sequel. However, Brad Bird’s next project is… (drum roll please)…
    …MISSION IMPOSSIBLE IV! That’s right… for some reason he has picked the M:I series as his live action directorial debut.

    Yep, not sure how good that fourth one is. They put it in 3D to ensure butts in seats. But I’m not holding my breath for a good movie.

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