- The Washington Times - Friday, May 18, 2001

The computer animation feature "Shrek," though not exactly my cup of farcical whimsy, is inventive, playful and diverting. The timing also is sneakily right.
Much has been made of "Shrek" as a repository of inside jokes. It is said to be aimed at the Walt Disney organization to appease the mocking appetite of DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, who supervised Disney film production for many years before being rudely exiled from the Magic Kingdom.
"Shrek," however, arrives as an immediate rebuke to such overblown summer swashbucklers as "The Mummy Returns" and "A Knights Tale." DreamWorks animators, embroidering a vintage childrens book by William Steig, exploit medieval and chivalrous trappings with far more wit and flair than "A Knights Tale."
The "Shrek" title character is rendered more or less faithfully. Shrek is a hulking, reclusive ogre who prefers the solitude of a swampland habitat, wheres he introduced leaving the outhouse and then luxuriating in a mud bath.
The filmmakers begin taking illustrative and comic liberties once Shrek is under siege. He is suddenly invaded by hordes of fairy-tale critters that have been evicted from a neighboring kingdom called Duloc, where the hereditary lord, a pompous runt called Farquaad, schemes to strong-arm rugged Shrek into his service. If the ogre agrees to rescue the lords intended bride, Princess Fiona, who is the captive of a ferocious dragon at a distant castle called Brimstone, the titled squirt will repatriate the bothersome exiles. These include burlesques of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the Three Bears, the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Blind Mice, Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man, an extremely hostile specimen.
Accompanied by a sassy, motormouth donkey that adopts Shrek as his master, the hero sets out reluctantly on the Fiona quest. As a practical matter, the partnership means that Mike Myers as the voice of Shrek and Eddie Murphy as the voice of the donkey trade wisecracks and insults on the road to Brimstone. If they sound a little familiar, its because Mr. Myers falls back on the Scottish accent he has used in other films while Mr. Murphy tends to echo the smarty-pants little dragon he dubbed in Disneys "Mulan."
Meanwhile, the big dragon at Brimstone proves to be an impressive fire-breather at first sight, while putting up tremendous opposition to the interlopers. This beast later is demoted to a figurative pussycat, but the wrathful incarnation gives the movie a spectacular adventure sequence, easier to enjoy than the self-devouring clashes that keep piling up in "The Mummy Returns."
The princess turns out to be a romantic fruitcake, which makes the return trip a three-way comic amble, enhanced by undercurrents of romance between the deceptively ugly Shrek and the deceptively fetching Fiona. The writers havent been as vigilant as they might be at resisting inspirational sentimentality of an obvious and condescending kind. "Shrek" succumbs to a mock-egalitarian delusion while extolling the notion that homely folks have as much right topassionand happinessas lookers.
Evenif transforming the appearance of one partner reverses conventional expectations, they make a difference. The transformation process in "Beauty and the Beast" seems to be a target of humor, but the joke misses the point of fantasies. Mr. Katzenberg also seems rather petty to dabble in ridicule of what was his greatest single achievement while he supervised animated features at Disney.
Nevertheless, "Shrek" provides a good deal of fun and enchantment. It doesnt make a persuasive case for computer-animated ingenues and critters at the expense of cel-animation figures, but it refines several graphic elements attractively, notably landscapes and settings, and wardrobes and textures.

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