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Shrek

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 05/11/01 05:39:53

"A very funny movie, even if you are too young to get some of the jokes."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Shrek is a masterful blend of ancient folklore and modern culture in a time-worn tale with a timely twist. Kids in America will take to Shrek the way kids in France took to The City of Lost Children. Here is a film that does something Disney never dared do to, tell kids that the real world is complicated and messy and unpredictable and ... sexual. However, I think jaded stoners will get the most out of this movie.

Its hard to make a children's film when all grown-ups have to go on is their idea of what childhood is like. Many of us forgot or have mythologized our childhood so we tell kids things we think they should hear and we don't notice that the whole entire world is conspiring against our well-intentioned attempts to pretend the real world doesn't exist.

Shrek doesn't pretend. Shrek farts, makes jokes about cock size and gets his ass kissed.

Shrek is also very very funny to people who have been immersed in fairy tales and popular culture. An improbable series of what-ifs, the kind of things you think of when you are stoned, ie. "What if Betty and Veronica were lesbians", or "Who would win in a fight between Spider-Man and The Jolly Green Giant", make Shrek a giant gag-fest. But the story itself is charming, heart-warming and ennobling to the individual whose fairy tale dragon becomes a metaphor for self-defeating beliefs.

Shrek is an ogre who likes to be alone. Lord Farqquad, who tyrannizes over his subjects in a Disneyland like castle(hmmmm....), has banished all the fairy tale creatures to Shrek's island home. Nothing is said as to why the fairy tale creatures get ejected. Shrek gets pissed. Goes off to have a little talk with Farqquad and ends up making a deal with Farquad to rescue a princess from a castle guarded by a Dragon. The similarity to every "rescue the princess" fairytale ends there.

You know, rescuing the princess has gone a long way for the Action Adventure set. What will this film do for a bunch of kids who stop buying into the story of "defenseless female", "swarthy hero" and "rescue"? Admittedly, the Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty tale in all the ways its been reworked is a romantic story with a succint beginning, middle and end that many many many people find a very satisfying ritual. That is why romance novels sell so well. The story is always the same, but walking through it deepens the experience of the key moments until the final climax of true love. It may just have been how our culture has managed to keep love alive. We have stories that don't just explain what it is, means or is supposed to do, we have story/rituals that will open it up in us.

Aaah. the magic of storytelling. My point: Shrek is faithful to the fairy tale as a way to rekindle and instruct the heart as well as entertain.

You can watch Shrek and be deep. It really does have a "message", and you really can analyze its use of traditional fairy tale structure to both deconstruct AND exploit the assumptions of a fairy tale and how those master narratives about our lives give us a blueprint to model the path of our own lives. As Princess Fiona says, "That is NOT the way it is supposed to happen." And she refuses to budge until the story continues along the way it has been written from time immemorial.

She learns though, that the story can change.

You can also watch Shrek blunted like shit, never having even picked up a book in your life and it would definitely be worth your 7 bucks. That is the sign of true genius, when the masterfulness of it all becomes completely transparent.

Sampling and collage artists will dig how this film reinterprets well known images by cross-breeding like mad the most disparate pop-cultural elements, which make for a very funny movie. Shrek even recycles the theme song from Mystery Men by Smashmouth. "Hey now, you're a rock star ..."

It almost doesn't matter that the voice talent was provided by a bunch of well-known actors. When you lend your voice to an animated character, its hard to see the real person behind the character. Animation lets a voice actor create a character you can believe in only if its drawn. You can exaggerate your tone of voice and affectation to work with the exaggerated and affected images in a cartoon. So even though its Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz, et al, they are not really the branded characters we see on the screen and to try to think of Princess Fiona as Cameron Diaz in a cartoon mask doesn't do the film (or Cameron) any favors. So just forget who the voices are. They do a good job bringing that final, unique aspect to the character, its voice.

I laughed in spite of myself and genuinely enjoyed the campiness and also the tenderness of this exquisitely animated film. The rock and roll rebellion and the in-your-face-ness of it all is a brazen and refreshing change. Shrek is cheeky monkey serious nonsense.

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