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“Shrek”rospective: A look back at animation’s richest fairy tale

The year is 1994. Movie mogul Steven Spielberg, music executive David Geffen and former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg undertake an endeavour to form an animation production company that would rival the Disney monopoly. That company is DreamWorks Animation. 

Fast forward seven years into the future to 2001, where a handful of traditional animation films the likes of The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado have performed in the range of admirable to outright flop. Pixar had already tilted the playing field considerably in its favor with the releases of groundbreaking computer generated films such as Toy Story, Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc., but as a blossoming organization, DreamWorks continued to lag.  That is until the Christmas movie season and the release of a film called Shrek

Stellar reviews and the expected holiday legs sustained the lovable ogre to a final gross of $267 million (or over five times its opening weekend take). This windfall easily crowned Shrek as the highest grossing computer generated film of all time and spawned the first ever animated trilogy with Shrek 2 (which is still the highest grossing animated film of all time with a whopping $441 million domestic take) and the also popular Shrek the Third three years ago.

The leaves us with Friday's Shrek Forever After (also being called "The Final Chapter"), supposedly the smelly ogre and his gang's final hurrah, a farewell tour that's sure to bring in the green.


Thanks to its successful attempt to combine laughs for the kids with ample cultural insight for the accompanying adults, these movies are a favorite among families. So let’s foray into the land of Far Far Away and visit Donkey, Puss in Boots and the whole gang as we look back on this modern fairy tale.



shrek1Originality is often a movie's most compelling quality and when that inherent creativity is presented in a manner boasting such hilarity it is easy to see why Shrek became the hit it was. Before the characters became parodies of their earlier selves in later films, there was a p lethora of unique and endearing mythical creatures to keep the plot high energy and the imagery delightfully ironic. 

Stealing the show was star comedian Eddie Murphy as Donkey (a fully dedicated comeback role after a series of critical flops and sequels) and John Lithgow as the deliciously evil, but small-statured Lord Farquaad.  Rounding out the stellar voice cast was of course Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz as the star-crossed ogre and princess respectively. With a warm, albeit time-tested, love story at Shrek’s core this is one of those films that can be watched ad nauseum without losing its charm.

Rating: 9.0 /10


Shrek 2

shrek 2The problem with the sequel to Shrek isn’t a lack of originality per se, simply that it isn’t as funny. The addition of Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) as a central character is a fresh addition, as are the likes of John Cleese, Julie Andrews and Rupert Everett, but even with the bolstered cast the laughs flow less freely.

Shrek also becomes a less interesting character, having already made his conversion from, well, an ogre to a loving husband his interactions with those he meets are less abrasive and therefore become increasingly drab. Overall, however, Shrek 2 is a very enjoyable film and is firmly rooted in the realm of watchability, even re-watchability.  So although this follow-up may be a far, far cry from the burst of freshness that was the original, when contrasted with its sequel looks like a master stroke.

Rating: 7.0 / 10


Shrek the Third

shrek3Often (and aptly) nicknamed "Dreck the Third," this unnecessary sequel is nothing but an attempt to capitalize on the phenomenon that was Shrek 2.  The effective jokes are appallingly distanced from one another and when they do surface they are on par with the worst jokes written for the original.

The characters have become skeletal versions of their former selves and without notable additions to the cast, the novelty of the once engaging plot is now a mere spoof or itself.  Even the talented leads seem to be phoning in their performances and the hero Shrek has graduated to more pissy than grumpy.  There is not nearly enough material to forward the plot, let alone supply that narrative with sufficient laughs, making this three-quel an utterly forgettable and disposable experience.

Rating: 5.5 / 10


Despite flaws in later instalments, the popularity of Shrek and his numerous wacky sidekicks and friends is one that will stand the test of time and remain a favorite for generations to come. With the apparently final chapter of this now quadrilogy finally here, it is probably time to lay this character to rest and remember him fondly and not taint the many laughs we have had with him over nearly a decade. With recent excellent movies now franchises-in-waiting such as Kung-Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks will be far from lost without its grumpy green friend and is bound to live happily ever after.


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