Thursday, 9 April 2009

Movie Review - Shrek

Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) is an Ogre. Nothing wrong with that, you might think. Well, the trouble with Ogres is, they have a bad Public Relations image. (Perhaps they should try hiring Max Clifford…) And the thing about having a bad PR is, it often ends up with people wanting to kill you so that they can improve their own PR. (It’s a cruel, cruel world out there…).

But the other thing about being an Ogre is, people think you’re extremely fearsome and dangerous – even if you’re not. So when the king commands that all fairy tale creatures (such as the Seven Drawfs, talking animals, etc) are taken captive, and hunters bravely set out to fight the fearsome Ogre, all he has to do is make a show of being as fearsome as his reputation, and they flee in terror. (But really, Shrek is as gentle as a lamb.)

One of the talking animals that is trying to evade capture is a donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy – this is about the only time I’ve liked a film with him in… - hand on, the same's true about Mike Myers!), who upon stumbling into Shrek’s den feels that he is the perfect companion – a feeling that is not returned…

But then something happens, which puts them on a quest that leads to events that no-one could possibly have predicted…

So what’s it like?

Everything about Shrek is either good or very good. The story is good – though very familiar. The characterisation is very good – I particularly liked Shrek’s anti-hero persona, and Lord Farquaad suddenly performing the martial arts of the Matrix variety. The animation is good, perhaps very good – but nothing that struck me as particularly special. The backgrounds are lush and as realistic as you would expect.

What matters most to me is the humour, and there’s plenty of it here – though not quite as much as I would have liked. The best scene in the film, to me, is Shrek explaining to donkey (donkey by nature, donkey by name) about Ogres:

Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
Donkey: They stink?
Shrek: Yes. No.
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry.
Shrek: No.
Donkey: Oh, you leave em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin' little white hairs.
[Shrek sighs]
Donkey: Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions.

But I did feel that the film fell some way short of what it could have been – there could have been more humour and / or excitement. Everything is, as I said, good – or even very good – but nothing is rally excellent. This is why I’m only giving it 4 stars – though really it’s more like 4.5 stars. A lot of people obviously like it more than I did though, since it appears on quite a few people’s “Top Ten Animated Movies” lists.

Voice Acting

The main characters are:

Shrek (Mike Myers) – 8/10 – generally voices his character well but the sarcasm in the vocalisations does not always match the brilliantly captured facial expressions.

Donkey (Eddie Murphy) – 10/10 – Eddie Murphy irritates me. So naturally, as a wise-cracking and irritating donkey, he is perfect. I can’t fault his performance here.

Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) – 9/10 – an extremely good performance – sensitive enough

Lord Farquaad of Duloc (John Lithgow) - 8/10 - does well enough with his "baddie of the piece" character, although he is slightly under9used.

Production Values

Amination – 8/10 generally,10/10 for the facial expressions.
Soundtrack – 7/10 – pretty good but not exactly memorable.
Editing – 9/10 – no obviously bad cuts, scene transitions normally look good.
Storyline – 7/10 – good as far as it goes, but it had the potential to be a lot more imaginative than it was. The ending, while mildly funny, was disappointing.
Dialogue – 8/10 – occasionally brilliant, otherwise competent.
Action sequences – 7/10 – again, slightly lacking in imagination, but nothing particularly wrong with them.

Shrek is a nice animated movie, and one that adults can enjoy too. As a fariytale turned on its head it’s good, though it could have been better – in my opinion the scriptwriters weren’t really inventive enough to turn this into a true classic. Well worth a look though, the kids will enjoy it, and it doesn’t suffer from repeated viewings.

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