Published May 01, 2001As far as the average fantasy tale of good guy versus bad guy, ugly outcast versus beautiful rich creep, "Shrek" at least is better than "A Knight's Tale." The simplistic story line, however, is of little concern because the visuals are the main draw to this mind-blowingly impressive feast. Shrek (Mike Myers) is an ogre who, for obvious reasons, is a social outcast who appreciates solitude. He hates the world and it hates him. But when the evil Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), an anal, uptight little man and the butt of many "compensating" jokes, dumps the fairy tale creature population onto Shrek's property, the ogre strikes a bargain to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and get his property back. Eddie Murphy plays a fast-talking donkey sidekick.
The story revolves around the meaning of love while taking a playful jab at fairy tale clichés and formulas. An ensemble cast, from cat-fighting Snow White and Cinderella to the Big Bad Wolf make appearances, as if Robert Altman decided to make an animated fantasy.
While Eddie Murphy delivers one of his better performances as the cowardly but loyal donkey, Mike Myers is restrained as the ogre with a Scottish accent. He doesn't cut loose much, which is disappointing, but one doesn't feel as though this was really his vehicle anyway: it really belongs to the 275 artists who worked on it. The voices are nice, but the high-profile actors could have been anyone, really (although Lithgow's Farquaad is deliciously sinister). "Shrek" is a kids movie, fart-gag filled as it is, but like other children movies that work, this one offers enough for adults to laugh at as well, from short person/penis jokes to Fiona's "Matrix"-like thrashing of libidinous French forest bandits. The wholesomeness of it does not get in the way of good storytelling either: it has the same approach to fairy tales and fantasy as the Princess Bride: wry, tongue sometimes in cheek, self-referencing and well worth the time.