Trouble is brewing in the fairytale kingdom of Duloc. The kingdom’s diminutive Lord Farquaad is on a rampage, declaring war on all fairytale characters. As part of his campaign, he has a gingerbread man dunked in milk. Lying there, with one leg missing, the gingerbread man is defiant. When Farquaad’s persists, the gingerbread man tells him to “Eat me.”

shrekDelivered with wicked wit and high imagination, “Shrek” sets the world of fairytales on their collective ear, and establishes DreamWorks SKG as an animation powerhouse. Like last year’s stop-motion feature “Chicken Run,” “Shrek” brilliantly mixes pop culture with dazzling animation. The result is a film takes total advantage of its hip, occasionally sophisticated script and advancements in computer animation.

“Shrek” is also a family film that should appeal families, and not just the little ones. Kids will absolutely love the broad humor and slapstick, while adults will appreciate the clever homages and references. The script by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, and Roger S.H. Schulman doesn’t just give the characters smart things to say, it gives them heart.

Even though they are as different as night and day, all of the main characters share the same desire. Whether or not they admit it, they need someone in their lives.

It’s extremely rare for animated humor to come from within, to reflect more than just what’s on the surface. The jokes and situations in “Shrek” work so well because they are grounded in the character’s personalities. Even the film’s low brow humor and fart jokes seem fresh and inviting because they are presented with innocence.

When “Shrek” lets one loose while taking a bath, the dead fish that rise to the surface seem like an easy laugh, but then the writers and animators take the joke one step further by having the ogre use the fish as a loofah.

“Shrek” is so much fun because the filmmakers aren’t out to trash fairytales, but twist them around just enough to make them seem fresh again. They succeed. Directors Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson approach the material with a an appreciation of what’s come before, but with the ability to make it their own.

So even if things look familiar, they’re not. You really admire the animators, who create characters who seem to live and breathe within the frame. Their fairytale surroundings are colorful and full of detail, not to mention depth of field. The images in “Shrek” are so vivid it’s like watching 3-D without the glasses. The characters don’t just talk, they breathe and think.

That makes their adventures all the more engaging. Instead of just sitting back and watching, we are compelled to take the journey with them.

It’s a journey you won’t forget, and will probably want to take more than once. The in-jokes and homages come so fast and furious. Blink and you’re bound to miss something.

Unable to find a suitable princess among the fairytale citizenship, Lord Farquaad (voice of John Lithgow) banishes them to a swamp on the outside of the kingdom, which doesn’t sit too well with the swamp’s inhabitant, an ogre named Shrek (voice of Mike Myers).

Shrek enjoys his solitude, even going as far as painting and posting warning signs to keep away the riffraff. That doesn’t stop the deluge, forcing Shrek to take matters in his own hands. Accompanied by a talking Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy), Shrek makes the trek to Duloc, where he forges a deal with Farquaad.

In order to become King, Farquaad has to marry a princess. According to Snow White’s magic mirror, Farquaad has three choices: Cinderella, Snow White and Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz). Shrek agrees to rescue Fiona from a fire breathing dragon in exchange for the deed to his land. It’s the kind of stuff that makes a great fairytale, and in the case of “Shrek,” a really great animated film.

The characters have real attitude, and the animators get excellent support from the voice talent. Mike Myers is splendid as Shrek, who speaks with a Scottish brogue and has a hard time being as mean as he is big. Eddie Murphy is a scene stealer as Donkey, whose asides are some of the film’s funniest. Cameron Diaz makes a feisty princess, while John Lithgow never comes up short as the little Lord.

A love-sick dragon, a kingdom that looks an awfully lot like another Magic Kingdom (complete with turnstiles, parking and an annoying song presented by cute little children), and clever references to new and old movies (a meeting with Robin Hood and his merry men yield spoofs of Mel Brooks, The Matrix and Riverdance) make “Shrek” one of the most unexpected surprises of the year.

TWISTED TALESWickedly funny Shrek should see plenty of green


Voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow. Directed by Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson. Rated PG. 88 Minutes.


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