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In this episode: Shrek
Poink. Ouch.

Okay, I really should be packing for Lake Powell right now. I mean, I have to leave tomorrow right after work, driving billions of miles, then a billion more the next morning. I'll need sleep, rest, slumber.

But I just have to get something out about this movie right now, before I leave. Because, you see, while the bland-as-vanilla (according to sources) Pearl Harbor will trounce the world on Friday, really people should be going to see Shrek. I mean, they already are, since it had the second biggest animated opening weekend of all time behind Toy Story 2. But you haven't seen it yet, have you? No? I didn't think so.

Shrek is fun, cute, funny, and a very charming fairy tale that makes fun of itself by skewering the whole genre. Think Disney. In the first few minutes of this movie alone, there are countless references to The Mouse's collection of fairy tale princesses and magical beings. I won't ruin anything for you, but there are layers of stabs at Disney and other tales from childhood. It's like an onion, really.

At the center, though, is a very sweet (yes, SWEET) story with some likable characters. (Less fart and burp humor—NONE, in fact—would have been better.) Shrek, the big green ogre voiced amusingly under-the-top by Mike Meyers, is the story's center. It's very subtle work, really. I was very impressed with Master Meyers.

Shrek's buddy for this movie is a talking donkey, sans name, whose voice is provided by Eddie Murphy. Eddie is almost too annoying, but, thanks to his skill and the animators who brought the donkey to life on the screen, he turns out to be very likable and cute. (Likable. Cute. Sweet. "Hey! Who replaced Steve with a reviewer from Ladies' Home Journal?")

Also along for the Shrek trek is Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz). She has a nice bend to her personality, making her not at all as bland as some of Disney's goody two-shoes royalty. She's actually got some funny moments, plus a great twist that I won't ruin here. The message of the movie is hit home with Fiona's atypical situation.

The baddy is Lord Farquaad. He's perfectly bad, but also has a couple quirks that make him more interesting than usual. His scene with the Gingerbread Man (see frames 13,251-17,576) is extremely clever and very funny. John Lithgow, who did the voice, sounded not as much like John Lithgow as I was expecting. Maybe because I was thinking Kelsey Grammer instead. Hmm. My cogs need oiling.

Also key to the fun of Shrek is the modern music. Okay, as it turns out, this is, surprisingly, the least original thing this month, since A Knight's Tale and Moulin Rouge both use modern music in an historical setting. But, hey... I saw this one first.

The animation is by Pacific Data Images (PDI), the folks who did Antz. As good as the CG was, I couldn't help but compare it to Pixar (of Toy Story and, in a few months, Monsters, Inc. fame). Pixar has this sort of intangible grasp of detail and quality, the kind of thing you rarely see these days. PDI did a very good job on Shrek, though. It is a fanciful world after all, and the plasticy look of the characters and the environments is perfectly fine. I won't even mention Final Fantasy, which comes out in July. If you wanna see knock-out CGI, just you wait for that.

I saw this in digital projection ( DLP—check out my reviews of Akira, Toy Story 2, Mission to Mars, and Star Wars I for more on this technology). I don't know what was going on this time, but the pixels should have been listed as supporting characters in the movie. Moiré patterns and jaggy lines were everywhere. The colors were great, but the resolution was not so hot. I'll say it yet again: Digital projection is not yet ready to replace film.

Do yourself a favor. After sitting through the no-doubt exciting but soulless Bay "masterpiece" Pearl Harbor, take yourself to Shrek and enjoy some light-hearted, quality filmmaking. I think you'll dig it.

Prediction: This movie will earn more money than the shaky Atlantis will this summer. Let's see if I'm right, or a loser who doesn't know box office from Cool Whip.

 

—Steve

5/24/01

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©2001 Steven Lekowicz except
Shrek still and logo TM and ©2001 DreamWorks LLC