Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Review: Eddie Murphy Made the Excellent "Shrek" Even Better
Shrek (2001) – computer animated
Running time: 90 minutes (1 hour, 30 minutes)
MPAA – PG for mild language and some crude humor
DIRECTOR: Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson
WRITERS: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, and Roger S. H. Schulman with additional dialogue by Cody Cameron, Chris Miller, and Conrad Vernon (based upon the book by Shrek! William Steig)
PRODUCERS: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Aron Warner, and John H. Williams
EDITOR: Sim Evan-Jones
Academy Award winner
ANIMATION/COMEDY/FANTASY and ADVENTURE/ROMANCE/FAMILY
Starring: (voices) Michael Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel, and Jim Cummings
Shrek (Michael Myers), a reclusive ogre, suddenly finds his home in the swamp beset by the denizens of hundreds of fairy tales. They are refugees of a hate campaign by a little despot named Lord Farquaad of Duloc (John Lithgow). Farquaad promises to remove the fairy tale beings from his home if Shrek rescues Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a fearful fire-breathing dragon. By marrying a princess, Farquaad would become a king. The talkative Donkey (Eddie Murphy) joins Shrek as his faithful steed on the quest to rescue the princess for Farquaad, but love has other plans.
From Pacific Data Images (PDI) and DreamWorks, respectively the computer animation studio and movie studio behind Antz, Shrek is a lively and funny cartoon that kids can watch but that is really aimed at adult viewers. With the requisite toys and novelties, the film is sure to attract children, and the film contains enough gross and childish humor to keep their attentions. Shrek’s success, however, is in its ability to tap into grown-up sensibilities. Literally having a pack of writers working on the script gives Shrek’s story multiple layers. The movie is filled with pop culture references, film references, bawdy humor, sight gags, and sly asides, and the romantic and sentimental aspects of the film are quite convincing.
The voice actors really carry the movie. Myers is, as always, able to create several character voices, and he creates two others in this film besides Shrek: the Narrator and one of the Three Blind Mice. Ms. Diaz has a nice performance as the princess, but she saves her best work for the film’s last quarter. John Lithgow, an accomplished actor who has played a few wacky villains in the last decade, revealed his comic chops in the television series “Third Rock from the Sun.” He doesn’t fail to please here; his Farquaad is nasty, petty, deceitful, and quite vindictive – a potent little menace who really deserves his comeuppance.
The star of the show, however, is Eddie Murphy as Donkey. We’ve come to take Murphy for granted. He hasn’t taken on oh-so-serious roles like other comedians, so many critics and moviegoers don’t think of him as a good actor. His Donkey is a jiving talking huckster, at one moment cowardly, brash the next, and a mentor when he has to be. The role fits Murphy like an old glove, but he makes Donkey so vital, so fresh, so funny. Like one of Robin Williams’s caricatures, Murphy is a chatterbox, but he doesn’t wear thin; even his mumblings are funny. His verbosity never annoys, and Donkey is the axis upon which this story turns. Lose him and you have a passable, middling movie.
Shrek is a surprise, and it went on to win the first Oscar® for Best Animated Feature. It is truly for all ages. Funny and touching, it is Hollywood product that is near perfect entertainment – well put together by its cast and creators.
8 of 10
2002 Academy Awards: 1 win: “Best Animated Feature” (Aron Warner); 1 nomination: “Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published” (Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, and Roger S.H. Schulman)
2002 BAFTA Awards: 1 win: “Best Screenplay – Adapted” (Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman, and Roger S.H. Schulman); 5 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Harry Gregson-Williams and John Powell). “Best Achievement in Special Visual Effects” (Ken Bielenberg), “Best Film” (Aron Warner, John H. Williams, and Jeffrey Katzenberg), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role” (Eddie Murphy), and “Best Sound” (Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Wylie Stateman, and Lon Bender
2001 Won BAFTA Children's Award Best Feature Film (Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson, Aron Warner, and Jeffrey Katzenberg)
2002 Golden Globes: 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy”