The 3-D films coming out of Pixar and PDI/DreamWorks are so good that it makes other films look like they're just radio programs. The animation is breathtaking. At moments, you'd think they used puppets. This film works wonderfully as an irreverent satire of fairy tales and Disney's corporate rendering of those tales. Smaller kids won't get all the in-jokes, but adults will be in stitches. It takes every Disney cliché and smashes it.
The film follows the adventures of an ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers, AUSTEN POWERS), who makes a deal with the diminutive Prince Farquaad (John Lithgow, TV's 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN) to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz, THE MASK) in return for regaining his swamp back from the rest of the fairy tale creatures, who have been kicked out of the kingdom of Far Far Away. Along the way, Shrek will meet up with the very talkative Donkey (Eddie Murphy, MULAN), who has the exact opposite personality as the sarcastic and grumpy ogre. However, when Shrek shows up to rescue the princess trapped in the tower, she is less than impressed by her not-quite dashing savior.
Donkey, voiced by Murphy, is so funny he's hands-down the best part of the film. Though his voice work is similar to what he did in MULAN, he has far better material here. Myers is also fitting as the gruff reluctant hero, who really just wants to be left alone. Along the way, other classic fairy tale characters will make memorable, and funny, appearances like the Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio, the Three Blind Mice and Monsieur Robin Hood. One of my favorite scenes is where Prince Farquaad threatens to pull the Gingerbread Man's gumdrop buttons off if he doesn't find out the information he needs to know.
What makes the film extra special is it creates a multilayered world. On face value it is a fun and humorous adventure for everyone in the family. The pop culture references will attract the SIMPSONS crowd. However, the satirical look at fairy tales and the inadvertent, less than positive images they portrayed is brilliant, and will be the chief reason this film will hold up well over the years. PDI/DreamWorks' shots at its powerful competitor Disney are nicely done. Additionally, some of the best jokes come with a dark twist, which is very unexpected.
Though the end is predictable, the point is a worthy point. For a film that's making fun of fairy tales, this film has a better moral than most of the recent Disney flicks.