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New in Theaters for the Weekend of  
May 18 - 20, 2001



Jeffrey Katzenberg was the heart and soul of Disney during the late 80's and early 90's. He was in charge of the animation division's renaissance, which yielded megahits like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. However, Katzenberg has used his talents to make his new company, DreamWorks, a new leader in animation. The company's summer offering, Shrek, is a great example of the innovation being achieved by DreamWorks.

Shrek, voiced by Mike Myers, is the Greta Garbo of the fairy tale world. This not-so-jolly green ogre just wants to be alone. Shrek lives by himself in a shack in the middle of a swamp and that suits him just fine. However, his solitude is disrupted when the evil, 3 foot tall Lord Farquaad (voice of John Lithgow), attempts to run all the fairy tale characters out of his kingdom, Dulac. Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, the Three Blind Mice, and more are forcibly relocated to Shrek's swamp and turn his world upside down. Maddened by this invasion on his land, Shrek teams with a fast talking donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy) to show Lord Farquaad what for.

Shrek and Donkey soon learn that Lord Farquaad is trying to build the perfect kingdom, but he lacks one important ingredient. To become a king, he must marry a princess. The most available gals all require a brave rescue, which the diminutive Farquaad is not capable of achieving. So, he convinces Shrek to save the beautiful princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) from her castle prison. In return, Farquaad promises to give Shrek his swamp back without all the fairy tale characters.

Can Shrek defeat the dragon and save Princess Fiona? Will Fiona want to marry Farquaad?

Shrek is best described as two movies in one. The first half is more childlike and filled with potty humor. Shrek's personal habits are likely to make the 10-year olds giggle with glee as he passes gas in various forms, brushes his teeth with slime and showers with mud. However, the second half of the movie becomes a magical fairy tale that makes it worth the price of admission. In the end, Shrek is the tale of an ogre who is uncomfortable with his appearance and the movie is a personal journey towards self-acceptance and a better self-image.

Luckily, DreamWorks has assembled some amazing talents to voice the characters. Eddie Murphy is hilarious as the wisecracking, smart alecky Donkey who just wants a friend. From his first moment on the screen, Donkey steals the show. In a great show of restraint, directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson know not to overuse him, so you won't be sick of the act by the time the movie ends. Lithgow uses his pompous, faux Shakespearean tenor for fantastic comedic effect. While Farquaad is only 3 feet tall, he has the voice of 7 footer. Even Cameron Diaz shows great talent as the princess whose fantasy isn't coming true. She gives the character an interesting edgy, bitter feeling that you don't find in a regular fairy tale.

While you can hear great talent bring the characters to life, the animation team makes them look and feel real. You might think that is a strange statement about animated characters, but you will be amazed at the visual effects. All the characters, created with CGI (computer graphic imaging), have a 3-D look to them.

To make the characters look more lifelike, the animators form the skulls of the characters in a computer, then, create computerized facial muscles. After that, skin in put on top of it. That layer is programmed to respond just like a human head would. This works wonderfully for our bigger than life hero, and makes the human characters look better than anything you have seen before.

Best of all, the script if full of clever, intelligent jokes and sight gags that will keep the adults entertained. The audience is treated to a plethora of Disney jabs (although not as many as I expected), twists on beloved fairy tale characters and a delicious exchange between Lord Farquaad and the Gingerbread Man. Like all great animation, the movie appeals to all ages with a little something for everyone.

I was turned off by the potty humor, but the rest of the film stands out as a tour de force. Grade: A-

Copyright 2001 - WaffleMovies.com