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Fun with Cartoons

Shrek doesn't take itself too seriously

In a cartoon world full of glossy marketing, Prozac-induced story lines, Barbie-and Ken lookalikes and sappy musak, DreamWorks latest animated effort, Shrek, is comic relief. The movie pokes fun at its competitors' productions (like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White) while also dousing itself with a heapful of self-degradation, and has a good time doing it.

Directors Victoria Jenson and Andrew Adamson successfully bring to life this tale based on William Steig's children's book of the same name. The title character, Shrek (Mike Meyers), is a grumpy, curmudgeonly ogre with a soft heart who lives a happy, hermetic existence in a swamp. The antics of Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), an ambitious, egotistical bureaucrat with a Napoleonic complex, transform his paradise into a makeshift refugee camp. The Lord has launched a resettlement program for all the "fairy tale things" in the land and, thus, the displaced characters - like the three pigs, the three blind mice and the seven dwarfs - seek solace in Shrek's isolated abode.

Needless to say, the green monster ain't happy, so he goes to have a big talk with the little Lord who makes a deal with him: save a princess and in return get your peace and quiet back.

With his half-loved, half-despised sidekick Donkey (the hilarious Eddie Murphy), a verbose wise-cracking jack-ass who leaches onto the Ogre after he saves his life, they trek to save "the girl". However, this chick isn't your typical damsel in distress, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is an ass-kickin' young woman who "likes Pina Coladas and being caught in the rain". In turn, Shrek isn't what she expected out of a knight in shining armor; they form a dyfuctional duo which parallels the modern day dating scene rather than a storybook romance.

Shrek is a mix between an action flick, romantic comedy, and children's cartoon, and wrings laughs by referencing different movies like The Matrix and Indiana Jones. In one particular scene, Princess Fiona and the gang are attacked by a band of brazen Frenchmen, who resemble Robin Hood and his [Riverdancing] Bandits. She busts out some Matrix action-choreography that will have you chuckling in your seat telling yourself "Gee, I've never seen a fairy tale Princess do THAT before!"

The movie features a good deal of witty commentary on fairy tales, pop culture and an entertainment empire that begins with a "D" and ends in "land". At times such blows are so slick - and clearly comprehendable only by adult audience members - you can almost feel the directors giving you a quick wink. The soundtrack sports the current cinematic trend (seen in A Knight's Tale and Moulin Rouge) of using anachronistic rock music from the likes of Joan Jett, Smashmouth, and the Eels, which is a very refreshing escape from the cheesy ballads (that seem to be made to pull on the emotional heartstrings of hormonal, pregnant women than the average person) that you usually hear in children's cartoons.

One complaint about the graphics - the animals and scenery look much better than the humans (who look as if they've been plucked right out of one of those old-school Fischer-Price story books of still-life claymation). However, someone pointed out to me that I've never actually seen an ogre (who knows if that's what it looks like. So, get over it - the graphics are top notch, and the animators make this fantasy world more real. And as the six-year old sitting behind me gleefully cried, "It's funny!"


Rated PG
1 hour 43 minutes

Eddie Murphy
Mike Myers
Cameron Diaz