Starring: Michael Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow
Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson
The first time I saw Shrek wasn't in theatres, it was on DVD. I thought it was fun enough, but I wasn't blown away by it (other than the animation, which is quite spectacular). Then I saw Shrek 2 in a theatre on my honeymoon, and went to the Shrek 4-D attraction at Universal Studios, and I loved them. I think they made the original better in my memory. I got Shrek 2 for Christmas, so I had to get the original on DVD to compliment it.
Watching it tonight for only the second time, I was struck by how quickly it has aged. Only four years since its release, and the humour and trappings of the film are getting old. That's sad, because animated family movies used to be classics. I watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as a child as though it was contemporary, even though it was made in 1937, and felt nostalgic for it when on the Snow White ride at Disney World in February. Something tells me I won't feel the same way when I go on the Shrek ride at Universal with my kids in ten years (something else tells me that the Shrek ride will go the way of Captain EO in less than ten years).
It's not the animation that has gotten old, it still looks as impressive as ever (more impressive than last time for me, since we were watching it on my wonderful TV). It's the littering of pop culture references and pop soundtrack that makes the film seem outdated already. All that is wrong with the film is represented with the opening credits sequence, as we get a glimpse into the gross life of the ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers). He showers in mud, uses squished bugs for tooth paste, farts in swamps-- killing fish that he'll eat for dinner, all to the strains of Smash Mouth's "All Star". The scatological jokes, which aren't my cup of tea, weren't what made this scene so bad. It's that they were accompanied by Smash Mouth that made it so offensive. I was immediately taken out of the movie and taken by the horrifying thought that there was a time, not too long ago, when people liked their music. And then I was embarrassed and ashamed. I didn't get back into the movie until the comically brilliant scene where Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) tortures The Gingerbread Man (hands down, the best scene in the movie). This is why you don't use pop music in movies that should be timeless, because it immediately assigns an era to your picture (to compound the problem, the movie ends with Smash Mouth's remake of "I'm A Believer". Yes, that's right, the movie begins and ends with Smash Mouth).
It's really too bad, because this is a movie that was soooo close to being timeless. So close to greatness that many of us were fooled the first time around into believing that it had achieved it. Shrek could be a modern-day fairytale, one that could rival all of the ones of the public domain that Disney has taken hold of and this movie pokes fun at (and pokes fun at Disney for doing). Instead, it went the route that seemingly all animated movies have been going since Aladdin, the hip route, to draw in the date crowd along with the family crowd, and to appeal to today's more media-savvy child. As a result, it isn't anything more than an entertaining romp that I suspect will be less and less entertaining with each viewing.
Still, it has some genuinely funny moments (even though he isn't portrayed as being funny, I thought Shrek was far funnier than the much-heralded Eddie Murphy-voiced Donkey), some good action scenes (I pop for the wrestling scene, although there are a few too many dropkicks. The ankle lock is the best), and dazzling animation that is a true cinematic accomplishment. Also, I find the character of Shrek incredibly charming and lovable. But, the story and delivery is too average to score highly.