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DreamWorks presents
Shrek (2001)

"I just know, before this is over, I'm gonna need a whole lot of serious therapy. Look at my eye twitchin'."
- Donkey (Eddie Murphy)

Review By: Kevin Clemons  
Published: November 05, 2001

Stars: Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow
Director: Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson

Manufacturer: Technicolor
MPAA Rating: PG for (mild language and some crude humor)
Run Time: 01h:29:59s
Release Date: November 02, 2001
UPC: 667068901221
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A+ AA+A- A-

DVD Review

To be honest, the first time that I was to see Shrek in a theater, I didn't want to go. After surviving a hectic week, all I wanted to do was to go home and sleep until Monday morning. But, tired or not, as the credits rolled on what would become the biggest hit of the Summer 2001, I immediately wanted to watch the movie again, and again, and again. Dreamwork's computer-animated motion picture, Shrek, brings out the kind of pure joy that is absent from most live action films, because it contains high levels of emotion, adventure, and heart .

Owing as much to Fractured Fairy Tales and The Princess Bride as it does to Cinderella and Snow White, Shrek tells a familiar story to lovers of fairy tales. But this isn't your typical bedtime story. Adapted from the book of the same name by William Steig, Shrek simply turns the idea of fairy tales on its ear.

Shrek (Myers) is a large green ogre, living a simple life in the woods outside of the kingdom of Duloc. Because of his appearance, everyone dislikes and is afraid of him. He bathes with mud, posts "keep out" and "stay away" signs around the perimeter of his swamp, and scares off anyone who comes close to his home. Soon his life is turned upside down as a loud-mouthed donkey (Murphy) comes careening into his life. Not long after his arrival, other creatures start to arrive at Shrek's doorstep with a common problem: It seems that these storied characters (the Three Blind Mice, Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs) have fled Duloc because of the ruthless Lord Farquaad (Lithgow), a pint-sized dictator who banishes them from his kingdom.

Understandably upset with the recent turn of events, Shrek and Donkey go in search of Duloc to reclaim Shrek's swamp and remove the homeless fairy tale characters. After Shrek unexpectedly wins a contest at the castle, Farquaad strikes a deal with him: If Shrek locates the beautiful Princess Fiona (Diaz) for him, Farquaad will give him his land back without the squatters. The fire-breathing dragon guarding Fiona turns out to be less difficult to deal with than the princess Fiona herself. But along the trip back to Farquaad a friendship blossoms between Shrek and Fiona.

Since the release of the groundbreaking Toy Story in 1995, computer-generated animation has continually improved year after year. While the process has been taken to new and amazing heights, the ability to craft an interesting story, provide assured direction, gifted voice acting, and a winning script to match these impressive visuals has often been difficult. Shrek brings digital animation to its fullest potential. Released two months before the equally impressive visuals of Final Fantasy, Shrek has the distinction of being the first computer-animated motion picture to feature a "human" in a leading role.

It is certainly nothing new to proclaim that this young genre contains moments of awe-inspiring visuals, but Shrek may well be the best example to date. Each scene contains an outstanding amount of realism and beauty, in both set and character design; the sunflower-covered Duloc countryside looks strikingly real in their depth and appearance.

"I ain't never met someone who didn't like parfait. You never hear someone say, 'Hey, you want some parfait?' 'Hell no, I don't want no parfait!'"
Donkey (Eddie Murphy)

The strength of many recent animated films has been the ability to please both children and adults with their humor. Employing four screenwriters, this script has moments of adult humor that will go over the heads of kids under a certain age, while most of the laughs can be shared by the entire family. But it also offers uplifting messages. It would be wrong of me to spoil the ending so I will just leave it at this: it is refreshing to view a film aimed at children that shows that not everything in life has to be the way conventional thinking in films would have you believe.

Ten years ago, talent listings for voice parts in children's movies was pretty rare. Today the likes of Tom Hanks, Alec Baldwin, Billy Crystal, Kevin Kline, Woody Allen and even Christopher Walken have lent their personalities to several animated blockbusters. Shrek boasts four hugely popular actors playing the lead characters. Mike Myers (sounding like his "Fat" character from Austin Powers 2) does a fine job as Shrek, with perfect delivery and great chemistry with the other vocal talents. Murphy, who has become better known for his voiceover roles than his live action work recently, steals the show as Donkey. His rapid-fire delivery makes Donkey one of the best-animated sidekicks ever. In the smallest role (no pun intended!) is Lithgow, who brings a wonderful evilness to Farquaad, yet never goes over the top as has been done for other animated villains. Cameron Diaz has the benefit of bringing her own persona to the role of Fiona, a strong willed-princess with a secret.

When all the dust cleared on the summer films in 2001, Shrek went from underdog to top achiever, beating out such mammoth competition as Pearl Harbor, Tomb Raider, Planet of The Apes and Rush Hour 2. It seems fitting to me that a film as perfect as Shrek be the best, because it is.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno

Image Transfer Review: Taken straight from the digital source the 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer for Shrek easily scores high up with any other image transfer in current release. This transfer is near flawless throughout creating a strikingly beautiful image that is at times jaw dropping. Colors are amazingly beautiful while detail and sharpness are of the highest quality. A new film with the benefit of being taken directly from the digital source means that edge enhancement and print flaws are refreshingly absent. This is a wonderful image transfer that deserves to be seen on a high definition TV at your earliest convenience. Run, don't walk to your nearest electronics store and demand a demo.

Image Transfer Grade: A+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, French, and Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
English, French, Spanishyes

Audio Transfer Review: Presented in no less than eight different sound formats, the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS sound mixes fail to be as impressive as their video counterpart, though that is not to say that they do not impress. Aside from some ambient sounds in the forest and a more aggressive approach in chapters 5 and 8 the surround speakers are for the most part dormant. Dialogue sounds terrific with no distortion and the left and right speakers are nicely imaged with good separation.

As far as a head-to-head comparison between the Dolby digital and DTS tracks goes it is a bit of a toss up. Using the above mentioned chapters as a grading scale the DTS mix seems to be a bit louder and crisper compared to the Dolby Digital track, though aside from that the quieter scenes sound remarkably similar.

Dolby 2-channel mixes are available in English, Spanish, and French. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix can be heard in English, Spanish, and French, while the DTS mix is in English only.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Spirit
1 Alternate Endings
Production Notes
2 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, and producer Aron Warner
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Shrek revoice studio
  2. Character interviews
  3. Dreamworks Kids featuring music videos and interactive games
  4. Storyboard pitch of deleted scenes
  5. Progression reel, hints for Shrek video game on Xbox, Techinical goofs, Extended Karaoke jam
Extras Review: In the three years that Dreamworks has been in the DVD market, only twice have they given a film a two-disc treatment. Last year at this time it was the behemoth Gladiator that was jam-packed over two discs. With Shrek, disc features the film (full-frame on Disc One, widescreen on Disc Two) as well as an abundant amount of extra features via some clever animated menus (created by the film's crew themselves).

Disc One:
A first for DVD is the Shrek Revoice Studio, an interactive activity that allows anyone with a DVD-ROM and a microphone to voice their favorite character from Shrek. I must admit that though the feature is an amazing accomplishment, it is ultimately mundane after the freshness of it wears off. I suppose though that it will be used more by children than a twenty-four-year-old, so for those of the appropriate age group it will be a blast.

Next is the HBO First Look entitled Creating A Fairy Tale: The Making Of Shrek. Running nearly a half-hour this documentary is for the most part promotional containing interviews with the animators as well as the voice talent. It is interesting to watch, though it fails by opting for a look at the actors while only focusing on the technology for a brief time.

Perhaps the largest section on disc one is the DWK: Dreamworks for Kids, which deals with activities for children including: Music videos, a favorite scenes section, a brief featurette on the making-of a music video, a karaoke section, and interactive games. The music videos are oil and water. The good side being Smashmouth's remake of I'm a Believer, which is a light fluff version of the Monkees' hit. The bad being the god-awful Baha Men video for Best Years Of Our Lives; stay away for your own sanity. 5 interactive games are offered including Mirror Mirror On The Wall, Rescue the Princess, Character Morph, Shrektacular Trivia, and Dress Up The Gingerbread Man. Several are fun, others not so much, but is again aimed at kids, one of which I am not.

A DVD-ROM section is loaded with more games that you can shake a stick at, as there are a total of 15 activities for all ages.

Closing out Disc One are cast bios that include character interviews although I am having trouble finding the hidden Farquaad and Fiona bits, production notes and a trailer for Dreamworks' upcoming Spirit.


Disc Two:
First, a screen-specific commentary by directors Vicky Jenson and Andrew Adamson as well as producer Aron Warner. The track is fairly by the book as the three talk about the voice actors and the trials of processing the film from drawing to computer animated imagery. The track can be a bit slow at times, although there are several interesting anecdotes to be taken away from the 90-minute track.

The remainder of the supplements on Disc Two are geared more toward the making of the film as opposed to the games and fluff of Disc One.

The Tech Of Shrek is an informative 20-minute piece focusing on the computer animation team that helped put Shrek on the screen. For those curious about the process of computer animation this is an informative track and worth a look, for others who are less interested the HBO documentary on Disc One may be your thing.

Technical Goofs is a short 3-minute piece that shows what happens when animators make mistakes that cause heads to disappear and donkeys to become overly fuzzy. Not the outtakes I was hoping for, but nice nonetheless.

Character Design Progression Reel is a look at the evolution of the characters from concept to creation. Each of the four main characters is shown as well as the dragon. Dubbing Featurette is a 3-minute look at the international actors who voiced the lead characters for release overseas and in Mexico.

Storyboard Pitch of Deleted Scenes contains three ideas pitched by the creators of the film with the respective storyboards . Not as nice as on other animated releases where the scenes are nearly completed, since it is hard to get a good idea of just what the scenes would have been like with animation.

Rounding out Disc Two are Hints for the Shrek video game on the Microsoft Xbox, which isn't out yet as I write this. The theatrical trailers as well as hidden Easter eggs close out the supplements on Disc Two.

The only concern with the packaging, while minor, comes from the layout of the set from Dreamworks. A full-frame 1.33:1 version of the film is available in addition to the beautiful widescreen rendering. What alarms me is that the full-frame disc is on Disc One and given prioritized placement in the package, seemingly indicating a preference of full-frame over OAR. Of course, it could all be coincidental.

Note: The cast and crew bios and production notes here are a carry over from the first disc and not new material.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

A few weeks ago fellow dOc reviewer Joel Cunningham called Final Fantasy, "Less a great film than a groundbreaking artistic achievement." Shrek succeeds at being both of those things and more. It will undoubtedly be on my top ten list for the year, and early buzz is that it will be only the second animated film to garner a Best Picture® nomination. The DVD is nothing to scoff at either. A film, a DVD, that deserves success.


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