Not Your Usual Fairy Tale

The coolest movie of the year. No kidding.

An ugly ogre, a jabbermouth of a donkey and a kick-ass princess - those are the basics of "Shrek", the latest animated flick to come out of the DreamWorks stable. Though the actual story is the same as any fairy tale, the little twists added to it make it into an endearing and irreverent flick.

Shrek is a huge, green, irritable ogre, who is extremely vocal about being left alone in his beloved swamp, so that he can have mud-baths and bug-breakfasts in peace. Unfortunately for him, all that's about to change. In comes Lord Farquaad, a pint-sized fella who likes order and discipline, and needs to marry a princess in order to become a king. One of his aims is to get rid of anything unseemly, which means all fairy-tale cretures have to go. Which includes a talking donkey, who is rescued by Shrek while escaping from Farquaad's soldiers. So, Donkey attaches himself like a leech - albeit a irrepresible, chatterbox of a leech - to Shrek. But, unluckily for Shrek, all the other fairy tale creatures have been dumped on his doorstep too. So, off he goes to deal with Farquaad, who offers him a deal - rescue the Princess Fiona so that Farquaad can marry her, and Shrek gets his swamp back. Needless to say, the ogre (and Donkey) accept.

Primcess Fiona is (typically) locked in "the highest room in the tallest tower, guarded by a fire-breathing dragon". Of course, no one expects an ogre to attempt the rescue, right? Or the dragon turning out to be female and falling for Donkey? But, as I said earlier, there are a few twists here. So, the Princess discovers the whole truth and agrees to accompany them back to meet Lord Farquaad. Which is where we discover a few truths about the Princess as well, mixed in with a few side adventures. And then it's on to the grand finish with a typical (?) ending.

The story is simple and uncluttered, which is just fine. No extra nonsense about magic rings and flying carpets - just good, old-fashioned romance. The movie, however, relies on the superb animation to make it worth watching. All the little quirks, the blaze of colours, the true-to-life emotions - these almost make you forget that these aren't real characters. The pace of the film is perfect, shifting from one development to another without leaving out any gaps or creating confusion. But all this would be worthless if it weren't for the amazing life the voices lend to the characters. Shrek (voiced by Myers of "Austin Powers" fame) snarls and rages in a curious Welsh accent and Lord Farquaad (Lithgow) manages to cast a long shadow, despite his obvious shortcomings. But the class act of the piece is Eddie Murphy's role as Donkey - he truly is in a class of his own as the faithful friend who cannot be insulted, demoralised or be made to shut up. Of course, all the little digs at Disney and the spoofs - like the wrestling match scene - just add the final glitter to this gem of a movie.

This is the best thing in animation to come out in years - "Antz" notwithstanding - and can only really be compared to "Toy Story". And this one's not just for the kids. Completely, totally absorbing!

This article was first published on 15 Nov 2001.