Shrek is a fairytale about fairytales. Shrek himself is an ogre. He towers over the other characters, has a barrel chest, skin the colour of green slime and a bald egg-shaped head with squishy ears like inverted cones.As voiced by Mike Myers, with a Scottish accent, Shrek's attempts at fierceness are impossible to take seriously. He's more lovable than frightening, even when he's bellowing at the unwelcome fairy tale characters who have invaded his swamp (his shouting can't move them). When he does manage to scare some soldiers, Shrek seems bemused by the strength of his fearsome reputation.
The fairy tale characters of Duloc (everyone from the three bears to the seven dwarves) have been evicted from their homes by Lord Farquaad (voiced by John Lithgow). The diminutive Lord desperately wants to be a king. He sets his sights on marrying Princess Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz), and dispatches Shrek to rescue her from a castle surrounded by a fiery moat and guarded by a dragon.
The grounds of Farquaad's castle are large and empty, but clearly designed for tourism: a figure with an oversized papier mache head greets Shrek on his arrival; the information booth reveals puppet children who welcome you to Duloc with a song that eerily resembles "It's a small world after all".
Shrek is full of wickedly funny barbs directed at Disney and Disney animation. Shrek is accompanied on his journeys by a wise-cracking animal sidekick - an unnamed Donkey, voiced by Eddie Murphy. But this sidekick talks sex in his sleep and makes fart jokes. Princess Fiona takes the feisty Disney heroines of recent years (think Mulan or Pocahontas or Belle in Beauty and the Beast) to extremes - she kickboxes.
Eschewing the maudlin musical songs of Phil Collins and Sting, the soundtrack bounces along to rock tracks from recent years (which propel the story surprisingly well). Shrek is rendered completely with 3D computer generated imagery, and the technology's advanced noticeably since Toy Story 2 (the humans are more convincing). The story has a worthwhile message - don't judge people on their appearance - but the ending could just as well be saying that like only ends up with like.Shrek is short, clever, imaginative and funny. Hollywood comedies as good as this are in short supply at present, so don't make the mistake of assuming Shrek is just for kids.