The Reviewing Network’s Favorite Movies #20: Shrek 1 & 2

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Shrek 2 poster.jpg

Shrek is a 2001 American computer-animated fantasy-comedy film produced by PDI/DreamWorks, released by DreamWorks Pictures, directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow. It is loosely based on William Steig’s 1990 fairy tale picture book Shrek!, and somewhat serves as a parody film, targeting other films adapted from numerous children’s fantasies (mainly animated Disney films). The film’s soundtrack includes music by Smash Mouth, Eels, Joan Jett, The Proclaimers, Jason Wade, Baha Men, and John Cale (covering Leonard Cohen).

The rights to the books were originally bought by Steven Spielberg in 1991, before the founding of DreamWorks, when he thought about making a traditionally animated film based on the book. However, John H. Williams convinced him to bring the film to DreamWorks in 1994, the time the studio was founded, and the film was put quickly into active development by Jeffrey Katzenberg after the rights were bought by the studio in 1995. Shrek originally cast Chris Farley to do the voice for the title character, recording about 80%–90% of his dialogue.

After Farley died in 1997 before he could finish, Mike Myers was brought in to work for the character, who after his first recording decided to record his voice in a Scottish accent. The film was also originally planned to be motion-captured, but after poor results, the studio decided to get PDI to help Shrek get its final computer-animated look.

Earning $484.4 million at the worldwide box office, the film was a critical and commercial success. Shrek also received promotion from food chains such as Baskin-Robbins (promoting the film’s DVD release) and Burger King. It was acclaimed as an animated film worthy of adult interest, with many adult-oriented jokes and themes but a simple enough plot and humour to appeal to children. Shrek won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film was also nominated for six British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Eddie Murphy for his voice-over performance as Donkey, and won the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The film’s main (and title) character was awarded his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in May 2010.

Shrek established DreamWorks Animation as a prime competitor to Pixar in feature film animation, particularly in computer animation. The film’s success prompted DreamWorks to create three sequels—Shrek 2 (2004), Shrek the Third (2007), and Shrek Forever After (2010), two holiday specials—Shrek the Halls (2007) and Scared Shrekless (2010), and a spin-off film—Puss in Boots (2011). A fifth film, planned as the last of the series, was cancelled in 2009 with the announcement that the fourth film would conclude the series. The film’s success also inspired other merchandise, such as video games, a stage musical, and even a comic book by Dark Horse Comics.

In the first Shrek movie, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) is a loner out in the swamp bathing in mud, farting out fish, and scaring off villagers. But one day, a donkey named…Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) comes to Shrek in order to protect him from guardsmen who are attempting to take him into custody as all the fairy tale creatures are being sold off by the first film’s villain, Lord Farquaad (voiced by John Lithgow). Farquaad puts all the fairy tale creatures into the swamp that Shrek calls home thus leading Shrek and Donkey out to Dulock, Farquaad’s home, in which Farquaad offers him his swamp back by going to look for the princess he wants to marry, Princess Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz). Over the course of the journey, Fiona & Shrek find out they have more in common with each other than they initially believe and by the end of the film, it’s revealed that Fiona actually was cursed as an Ogre and only true love’s first kiss would break the spell and reveal Fiona’s true form, which it turns out that she, now an Ogre, and Shrek were made for each other.

In the original Shrek film, we saw the debuts of supporting characters such as Dragon, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, the Three Blind Mice, the Magic Mirror, the Three Bears, Big Bad Wolf, and Gingey in the first film’s most enjoyable scene:

In Shrek, they fall into one of the clichés that I hate, the misunderstanding, where the characters hate each other for no real reason but by the second act and by the beginning of the third act, they realize that they are meant to be together.

The Shrek movies have the advantage of Dreamworks already doing CG films beforehand with Antz and Shrek was the beginning of them perfecting their animation techniques that would later be used in Kung Fu Panda and all other Dreamworks movies. By Shrek 2, the animation was getting better because they started using the standard HP computers that used in all future Dreamworks movies.

The Shrek score is done by Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell (Powell only did the first film) but it’s Gregson-Williams that does the score for the majority of the entire series.

As great as the score is, one of the other key elements of the music is that the Shrek films mixes in pop music with this story that takes place in a fairy tale land. The first three films use a lot of pop music but unlike other movies where they put the music in just for the sake of putting it in, the music actually does play a part into the story.

The Shrek movies have more misses in their franchise of films with the first two films being the two highlights of the series but once we get to Shrek The Third, which was originally intended to be the last film in the series, the films took a downhill turn. Shrek The Third was a really mediocre and forgettable sequel that rehashed the supporting villain from the second film and brought him back for the third film, the jokes were terrible, the music is bland and forgettable and it was just a clunker of a film.

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