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Shrek (2001)

I have to admit I was hesitant to watch this with the kids, having read that some of the language and humor were inappropriate, and some of it does seem gratuitous and needlessly provocative; it would be a better film without.  But it's so much fun, so energetic, and the computer generated animation looks so good, that I suppose it can be grudgingly forgiven a few excesses.

The filmmakers have taken William Steig's fairly minimal story and expanded it into a full blown fairy tale, complete with an evil lord, a dragon, and a plot borrowed from Beauty and the Beast.  Then they've given the whole thing a post-Modern twist that Steig would surely approve of, with insider jabs at Disney, Princess Fiona reenacting slo-mo kung fu scenes from Cameron Diaz's Charlie's Angels role, and various other humorous touches that give an adult overlay to a film that kids enjoy at an entirely different level.

But for all the snarky humor, the Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy antics, and the impressive technology, the most delightful irony is that movie ends up working because of the way it taps into classic themes.  Shrek, the ugly and much-feared ogre, goes and rescues the princess after Lord Farquaad promises to restore the misanthropic privacy of his swampy home.  But over the course of their adventure the previously solitary ogre becomes friends with donkey and falls in love with Fiona.  Together they learn timeless lessons about friendship, loyalty, love, and the true nature of beauty.  Those involved may think themselves hip and daring heroes of counterculture for calling a donkey a "jacka**" in a kids' film, but the joke's on them as they retreat into homey bourgeois homilies by film's end, which Mr. Steig seem likely to have disapproved of.  I very much like the poetic justice of the filmmakers retreat.  But, of course, I'm a bourgeois and believe in those homilies.


Grade: (A)


See also:

    -FILMOGRAPHY : William Steig (
    -FILMOGRAPHY : Andrew Adamson (
    -INFO : Shrek (2001) (
    -ESSAY : 'Shrek!' author exclaims his approval of film (Claudia Puig, 06/20/2001 , USA TODAY)
    -ESSAY : Happily Ever Ogre : An anti-fairy tale run amuck (Eric Metaxas, Books & Culture)
    -ESSAY : Does Shrek really end happily (Jeffrey Overstreet, June 11, 2002, Christianity Today)
    -ESSAY : "Shrek" is not Shrek! : William Steig's subversive misanthropy is jettisoned for winking innuendo in the movie version of his children's book. (Margot Mifflin, May 24, 2001, Salon)
    -ESSAY : "Shrek" : Computer animation is a technological miracle. So why does it leave us cold? (Stephanie Zacharek, May 18, 2001, Salon)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (James Berardinelli Reel Views)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Stephen Hunter, Washington Post)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Movie Parables' Michael Elliott)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Hollywood Jesus Visual Reviews)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Matthew Rees, Christian Spotlight on the Movies)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (James Bowman)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (ELVIS MITCHELL, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Susan Wloszczyna, USA TODAY)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Paul Malcolm, LA Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (KENNETH TURAN, LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Mick LaSalle, SF Chronicle)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Julia Eccleshare, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (BRUCE KIRKLAND, Toronto Sun)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Sabadino Parker, PopMatters)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Bob Aulert, Culture Vulture)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Sean Weitner, Flak)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly)
    -REVIEW : of Shrek (Jaime N. Christley, Film Written Magazine)
    -MORE REVIEWS at Imdb