The new animated feature “Shrek,” is an elaborate and innovative film with state-of-the-art computer graphics and a hilarious script.
The story puts an irreverent twist of the usual children’s fairy tale with laughs that more than appeal to an adult audience.
Based on the children’s book by William Steig and directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, the story follows the adventures of a hermit-like ogre named Shrek, voiced by Mike Meyers. Shrek’s solitude is disrupted one day when he finds a battalion of classical fairy tale characters ranging from the Three Blind Mice to the Big Bad Wolf resting in front of his house. He finds out that the ill-tempered Lord Farquaad, voiced by John Lithgow, has banished the classical fairy tale characters from their home in hopes of marrying Princess Fiona, voiced by Cameron Diaz. Added to this, Shrek’s life is burdened further by the presence of a witty, outspoken donkey, originally named Donkey, voiced by Eddie Murphy.
Shrek makes a deal with Lord Farquaad to rescue Princess Fiona from her exile in a dragon-guarded tower if the fairy tale creatures leave Shrek’s property — but what Shrek doesn’t anticipate are the emotions he feels for Princess Fiona and who she really is.
The story is executed with a very direct, but simultaneously subtle, amount of self consciousness. It is very flippant in its treatment of traditional fairy tales by poking fun of the Ginger Bread Man, Snow White, Cinderella and The Three Bears, but still remains a fairy tale in its own right. It also succeeds by avoiding the pitfalls that normal animated movies get caught up with — the requisite soundtrack song in the middle, etc., and gives each situation a distinct feel that makes it accessible to adults. But, more than that, the movie has numerous pop-culture references that are sometimes very blatant satire, or appear as minor details.
“Shrek” represents a massive amount of effort on behalf of the directors, animators and production team. The style of animation is the first of its kind with regard to the added textures that maintains the picture’s animated atmosphere but also gives it a real-life feel.
John Lithgow, who was at hand for a question-and-answer session at the W Hotel in Los Angeles, Calif., Saturday, spoke about the time that he worked on the film in comparison to the time the animators put in it.
“If you put it all together, all the work that I did on ‘Shrek,’ I would say I’ve spent more time promoting it in the last three days than I spent actually doing it,” he said. “It was probably around 12 or 13 hours of work spread over four or five years. Compare that to the amount of work the animators and producers put into that — I’m embarrassed to be getting all the attention and credit for it.”
The interesting thing about the production of “Shrek” is that none of the actors actually worked together.
“Like no other acting, you are near no other actors that you play your scenes with, you’re all by yourself in a recording studio,” Lithgow said. “And there is a video camera guy there filming you, because they want a video record of everything you did while you were talking — because they know that you don’t just speak with your mouth … and they need that as a visual reference while animating. I compare an animated film to a big skyscraper: the voice is the steel girder, and they build around that.”
“Shrek” is a movie people of all ages can enjoy. It retains the general warmth and accessibility that is trademark to nearly all animated features, while possessing enough satire and subtle wit for adults to enjoy. “Shrek” opens May 18.
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