The post Toy Story world is upon us and it feels like fun. Computers have changed the face of animation and made anything possible, even realistic-looking human beings, always a prob in Walt's day. The best of the old (Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians) depended on a good story and a witty script. Add to that, the advent of star vocals - where would the Toys be without the genius of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen? - and the cartoon feature film has grown into Hollywood's ace-in-the-hole

Shrek is an ogre. He lives alone in the swamp, which is the way he likes it. He knows he scares people, being big, green and ugly, and rather than suffer the humiliation of social rejection, prefers to cut himself off, a bit like The Grinch, except he's nicer.

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The local toff, Lord Farquaad, owns everything for miles around. His palace is more in the Saddam Hussein style, vast and ostentatious. He orders his green brigade to round up fairytale creatures and dump them in Shrek's swamp, much to the ogre's annoyance. Why would he want the seven dwarves, a gingerbread man (broken), the three little pigs, Pinocchio, a talking donkey and the rest of the nursery favourites squatting on his front yard?

Farquaad needs to marry a princess to become king. There are three on offer - Cinderella, The Sleeping Beauty and Fiona. He decides on Fiona, who is prisoner in a castle on a rock, surrounded by molten lava and guarded by a fierce dragon. Shrek persuades the lord to let him rescue her, in exchange for land rites to his swamp. Reluctantly, he takes the donkey along, because the animal can't stop him talking and, rather than listen to another word, agrees, simply to shut it up.

Fiona turns out to be a feisty heroine, hiding a strange secret. Her years of captivity have done nothing to undermine her spirit. Shrek is smitten. As for the donkey, well, it finds romance in an unexpected quarter.

As with all good stories, excitement is never far away and the characters, which include a Gallic Robin Hood, are immensely enjoyable. The Beauty & The Beast subplot is in danger of going all preachy about it's-not-what-you-look-like-but-who-you-are-that-matters, which is compensated by sharp non-PC cracks at Farquaad's size - the man is a dwarf.

The animation, or whatever they call computer generated puppetry, is remarkable and the star vocals are not entirely what you might expect. Eddie Murphy's donkey is all Eddie, fast-talking and street savvy. Mike Myers uses his dubious Scots accent for Shrek and John Lithgow dubs Farquaad with a plummy Old Etonian drawl. Cameron Diaz, as Fiona, has all the energy and emotion of a real girl. If princesses came with this much conviction, why would anyone criticise the monarchy?

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2001
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The story of Shrek the Ogre, a creature that looks like a cross between Danny de Vito and something that just fell out of your nose...
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Read more Shrek reviews:

Jennie Kermode ****1/2
Symon Parsons ****1/2

Director: Andrew Adamson, Vicky Jenson

Writer: Ted Elliott, based on the book by William Steig

Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel, Peter Dennis, Clive Pearse, Jim Cummings, Bobby Block, Chris Miller, Cody Cameron

Year: 2001

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


EIFF 2011

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If you like this, try:

Shrek 2
Shrek The Third