Wednesday, May 9, 2007

From the Archive: Summer Movie Flashback Series - "Shrek" Review

Welcome to The Archive, a comprehensive collection of reviews dating back to 2007, originally written for The Denver Post’s YourHub.Com website and print edition!  In the archive, you’ll find hundreds of movie, DVD, Blu-Ray, and TV reviews, along with other special features.  You can access the complete Archive Collection by clicking here, and read about the archive project by clicking here. 

In the summer of 2007, I ran a special feature column where – due to the large number of sequels released that year – I revisited the original films from many ongoing franchises.  Here’s an excerpt from the article I wrote to introduce the feature:

“Well, the summer movie season has arrived … many, including myself, have dubbed this as the summer of sequels, because there are lots and lots of sequels coming out. To name a few, there's “Shrek the Third,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End,” “Ocean's Thirteen,” “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer,” “Live Free or Die Hard,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “Rush Hour 3,” and many more. I'm personally on the edge of my seat waiting for all these sequels, and excited to start reviewing them. And once I get excited about reviewing stuff, it's hard to stop. So, until the sequels to these franchises come out, I'll be revisiting their predecessors with brand new reviews to bring everybody up to speed!”

Continue reading after the jump to access Summer Movie Flashback review of “Shrek."

From the Jonathan R. Lack Review Archives:
Summer Movie Flashback originally published May 9th, 2007

I think that Shrek re-defined computer animation when it was released in 2001.  Its impacts were large and the only computer animation company unaffected by it was Pixar, most likely because it was already successful when Shrek was released. 

First off, Shrek brought in a new era of hiring big actors to do the voice parts, and then marketing the heck out of that.  Shrek hosted an all-star cast, headlined by Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow.  Now, why anyone would go to an animated movie just because it has stars VOICES is beyond me, but the film was probably a success because of that, and most CGI films since then have done that.

Second, Shrek was a movie made for both adults and kids.  It had lots of humor appropriate for all ages, some just for kids, and some just for adults that the kids scratch their heads during.  Shrek pulled this off extremely well, which is what makes it such a classic, and as such, most CGI movies since then (again, excluding Pixar) have copied this.  Some have taken the sex jokes overboard, and none pulled it off like Shrek, but the impact is nonetheless remarkable. 

Third, Shrek made CGI films popular.  Yes, Pixar’s films were very successful, but Shrek and its sequels, and many CGI films since then, have gone into the record books of box office receipts.  It’s no coincidence that since Shrek, CGI films have grown more popular each year, until Happy Feet actually beat back the new James Bond film for the number 1 spot in the box office opening weekend.  I think Shrek made CGI films popular because it had everything; humor, romance, action, and a good old fairy tale plot.  It’s just reeks (no pun intended) or originality at every corner, and was bursting at the seems with creativity.  It’s a great movie, no doubt about it.

The plot revolves around a loner ogre named Shrek who lives alone in a swamp, and scares off any villagers that come near his swamp.  Mike Meyers perfectly voices the ogre; it’s his tried and true Scottish accent that was already feeling old in 2001, but being just a voice role, it felt refreshingly new.

The evil Lord Farquaad wants to round up all fairy tale creatures and lock them up so he can have more land, and all the fairy tale creatures end up getting dumped on Shrek’s lawn, including a talking Donkey, simply name, Donkey.

Donkey is voiced by Eddie Murphy, and is the absolute best thing about this movie.  He steals the show in every scene he’s in, largely due to Eddie Murphy’s stellar voice job.  He talks faster then a locomotive, and comes up with lots of random rants and jokes that are simply hilarious.  And when he and Shrek are on screen, it’s just great.

Shrek goes to see Farquaad and get rid of the fairy tale creatures on his lawn.  Farquaad tells him he must save Princess Fiona from her tower, guarded by a dragon, to get the fairy tale creatures away.  So Shrek and Donkey go on a dangerous quest to find her.

It’s a pretty standard plot, but the fact that they take all the fairy tale creatures and rethink them in hilarious ways makes this a distinctly original movie.  John Lithgow is easily on par with Meyers and Murphy; his voice is perfect for the pompous and exploitive Lord Farquaad.  His impact is so big on this movie that one of the reasons the sequel (which I’ll be posting a review of soon) feels a bit lackluster; he’s not in it.

Cameron Diaz voices Princess Fiona and....she’s okay.  Adequate, yes, but feels very boring next to Meyers, Murphy and Lithgow.  She’s not cut out for voice acting (or any kind of acting for that matter) and while a better actress could have been found, its only a small dent in the film.

The animation is simply stunning, or was back in 2001.  In 2001, the world had only seen the textures world of toys and the earthy world of ants.  Shrek showed all kinds of environments, and while would look better if animated today, was just flawless and amazing back then.  I remember seeing this in theaters and honestly forgetting that it was a CGI film.  It’s so real, you forget it’s animated.

If Shrek brought in a new era of CGI films, it also brought in a new era of DVD.  When this came out on DVD, it was the coolest thing since sliced bread.  It feels a little light today, but in 2001 it was the most jam-packed DVD you could get without paying extra.  It features full screen (eww...) and Widescreen versions in the same set, and better yet, on separate discs, so video bit rate could be maximized on both versions.  They looked stunning then, and they look stunning now. 

The extras, however, was where this DVD revolutionized the market.  There were literally hours of material, something only diehard DVD nerds had been exposed to up until then.  This was a special edition that was the ONLY edition, so the average consumer saw it, and they liked it.  There’s lots and lots of making of material and backstage footage for movie buffs, and lots of fun interactive games for the kids, the best of which was a feature where you could put the DVD in your computer and re-dub scenes from the movie with your own voice.  This feature was so successful it was incorporated into many other DVDs, including the third Austin Powers film.  Since Shrek, DVD producers have put lots of effort into the average consumer versions of DVDs, and not just the uber-expensive “special editions.”

It’s a great film, no doubt, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you haven’t truly lived.  Catch it in time for Shrek the Third, and come back for my review of Shrek 2!

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