Dreamworks Home Entertainment
Extras: Commentary Track, Revoice Studio, Featurettes, Character Interviews, Games, Music Videos, Goofs, Storyboards, and much more
"Shrek" is a simple tale with a clever hook. Based upon the book by William Steig, we meet the title character, a big green ogre with trumpet-like ears as he makes his way from an outhouse and takes a shower in thick mud. It’s quickly obvious that this is not your normal fairy tale creature. Shrek (Mike Myers) is a private ogre, enjoying his days alone in his swamp, frightening those that trespass or wish him harm, but mostly keeping to himself and his mighty earwax. His privacy won’t last long though. Throughout the rest of the forest, the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) has announced a decree calling for the banishment of all fairy tale creatures from his "perfect" kingdom. The townspeople have gathered up these creatures, big and small, to sell to Farquaad’s men, and it is here where we first meet Donkey (Eddie Murphy), being sold-out by his human master. Through a bit of luck, Donkey is able to escape the clutches of the men and runs through the forest until he comes upon Shrek. With the men fast on his heels, Donkey seeks solace behind the ogre’s large frame and when the men get a good look at the hideous green beast, they forget about Donkey and return back in the direction they came from with great speed. Donkey, naturally, is convinced that Shrek has saved his life and proceeds to tell him so, and well, about everything else on his mind at the moment. Donkey is not only a talking donkey, but he is a talking donkey who will not stop talking. Of course, this doesn’t bode too well with Shrek’s solitary lifestyle and when Donkey follows him back to his swamp, it takes all the patience and kindness he can muster to allow the mule to stay there, outside of his house mind you, for just one night. During dinner, however, Shrek gets a bigger surprise than the company of a talking Donkey. After discovering three blind mice and a big bad wolf in his house, Shrek steps outside to find the banished fairy tale creatures on his property. All of them. Pinocchio, the seven dwarves, the three bears, Tinkerbell, they’re all there. On his property! Needless to say, Shrek is less than thrilled about the idea of his house becoming a makeshift refugee camp, so he demands to know what the heck they’re doing there. Donkey tells him about Lord Farquaad and Pinocchio assures him that they don’t want to be on Shrek’s property, only they have nowhere else to go. Being the reasonable ogre that he is, Shrek decides that he will have a talk with Farquaad and straighten this bit of nonsense right out. The crowd of creatures cheer and Donkey follows Shrek to be his guide to Duloc, home of Farquaad.
Along their journey, Shrek and Donkey learn a little more about each other and again, Shrek’s patience is pushed to the limit by Donkey’s impossibly mobile mouth. Once they reach Duloc, they stumble upon the opening ceremony of Farquaad’s tournament. When the humans gain sight of the unsightly ogre, however, Farquaad decides to change the rules of the tournament to whoever kills the ogre wins the prize. When Shrek and Donkey clean the floors with the humans, Farquaad decides that the ogre can have his swamp back if he will rescue the princess and bring her back to him. Shrek says fine, Farquaad says fine, and ladies and gentlemen we have a deal.
I don’t want to spoil the fun for anyone who might not have seen "Shrek" (difficult as that is to imagine), but this is really where the movie kicks in for me. The castle sequence is amazing, and of course it’s no big surprise that Shrek and Donkey rescue Fiona. It is more surprising to actually meet Fiona and learn that there’s very little typical about her either, what with the burping, the ninja abilities, and the mysterious insisting that she be in bed behind closed doors by the time the sun goes down. Through their journey back to Duloc, it becomes clear to Donkey (and us too) that Shrek and Fiona are really starting to like each other. I know, it sounds crazy, right? How can a beautiful princess love an ugly smelly ogre? Well, that’s essentially what the movie’s about: not judging people by their exterior appearance. It’s a classic fairy tale kind of moral and it’s executed wonderfully in the last half of the film.
I’ve seen "Shrek" a couple of times now, and while I think some of the jokes aren’t as funny in repeat viewings, the story remains strong, the visuals of PDI Dreamworks’ animation become more impressive, and it’s clear that this is easily on target to become a family classic. I can only imagine how much I would love this film if I were less than ten years old, and even as an adult I find it near impossible not to watch and enjoy. It’s one of those films that you can throw on just to watch a specific scene or moment, and end up watching the whole thing from there on out. What has not faded on me whatsoever about this movie, is the vocal talents of both Eddie Murphy and John Lithgow. I think Murphy does a terrific job with Donkey, using a voice that’s not quite his own but easily familiar and making lines that aren’t punchlines sound funny. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said "it is very spooky in here and I ain’t playing no games" in the past three days, and I think that’s solely due to Eddie Murphy. John Lithgow, of course, has one of the best voices in the business and he delivers as expected yet again with Farquaad, a short man with a big head. All in all, "Shrek" is a lot of fun. The kids obviously love it, and if you’re an adult and you haven’t seen it, then you need to, if for no other reason, than to see how much fun they poke at the wonderful world of Disney. That stuff will always get a laugh.
Audio is also given what seems to be the normal treatment these days with Dreamworks, offering the listener both a <$DTS,DTS> and <$DD,Dolby Digital> track. Interestingly, however, the DTS track is available only on the second disc with the <$PS,widescreen> transfer, while the Dolby Digital plays on both discs. Either way you go, the audio is represented extremely well, with DTS gaining a slight nod due to a bit fuller sound and a little more low-end. Dialogue is very well mixed and clean, as one might imagine and expect from a film that is completely overdubbed. The surrounds are very active, with all kinds of little forest noises and murmuring of creatures and humans in crowd scenes. The score by Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell sounds great and fits the film perfectly. Again, there is little to complain about here in the audio department.
Disc Two has more features, including a running commentary with producer Aaron Warner, and directors Vicky Jensen and Andrew Adamson. This is a pretty good commentary, geared towards the technical side and very informative, but the three also seem to have a lot of fun together and it is obvious how proud they are of the film. They also hum the opening theme for us, which is nice of them. Next is a featurette called "The Tech of Shrek," which further delves into the animation process involved in making the film. If you’re into computer animation at all, there’s certainly a lot to learn here, as the animators explain just how far the technology has advanced and how the bar was raised since their previous feature, "Antz." Also on board, are a few storyboard pitches of scenes that didn’t make it to the computer. Obviously, these would have been a bit more enjoyable to watch had they actually been animated, but it is neat to at least here about other parts of the story that were planned, but ultimately rejected.
"Shrek" is a fun movie that has enough to offer adults that they can actually enjoy watching a movie with their kids. A huge success in the theater, the film arrives on DVD in a special edition that is packed to the gills with unique, informative, and interactive features, and audio and video that are hard to find fault with. It’s an easy recommendation. And it is also very spooky in here and I ain’t playing no games. Okay, I gotta stop that.