CITY LIFE:

Sunday with an Ogre
by Jesse Fask
“Shrek” is good crude fun for the whole family. Even if you don’t like the jokes, you’ll marvel at the computer animation.
       It is great to walk into a movie theater, cargo pants stuffed with store-bought candy, on a rainy Sunday afternoon, and see an audience of kids and their parents eating buttered popcorn. Almost every seat was filled in the old Senator theater. As the curtain rose, I wanted a newsreel and a cartoon before the show but what I got was everything I hoped and expected from a cartoon movie starring Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy about an ogre and a donkey.

       “Shrek,” first of all, is the best computer animation to date. In “Toy Story,” the toys were right but the people didn’t look like people. Now, the technology is much improved for this type of animated movie.

       It’s very difficult to make a movie that both parents and children will like. I took kids to see the first Pokemon movie for my old job two Christmas seasons ago, and watching the crowd was much more entertaining than watching the film. While the children were utterly enthralled with seeing their Japanese-export TV heroes on the big screen, the adults looked utterly confused, like they were either watching a movie exploring the idiosyncrasies of thermodynamics in Swedish or they were watching butter melt in the North Pole. They had no clue what was going on.

       “Shrek” gives kids what they want: some classic bathroom humor, cool animation, and a good story of an outcast who becomes a hero. It uses a formula similar to Jay Ward’s “Fractured Fairy Tales” segments of the old “Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” satirizing old stories by the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen by putting them in a modern light that is funny for all members of the family. And, adults and kids alike get to listen to the raw antics of two of Hollywood’s most talented comedians.

       Mike Myers puts on his Scottish Fat Bastard voice of Austin Powers fame and Eddie Murphy is at his best as the donkey who doesn’t really have a name and is just called Donkey.

       I still believe that the best stuff Eddie Murphy has ever done has been on television on “Saturday Night Live,” where he was a veteran of spoofing children’s characters with his updated versions of Gumby and Mister Rogers. With no limits, Eddie Murphy can fall victim to the lowest common denominator, but when constrained to the limits of network television or a children’s movie, he must be more creative. He also is best when playing a strange off-beat character rather than a cool leading man. As the donkey, he is the great comic relief that failed George Lucas so badly with his Jar-Jar Binks character in the first Star Wars prequel.

       The only problem I had with “Shrek” was the ending, which I will try to discuss without giving it away. “Shrek” is a love story between an ugly green ogre and a beautiful shapely princess. But in the end, one of the characters has to change in order for them to end up together happily ever after. It’s like the ugly duckling story.

       That doesn’t help ugly kids who don’t usually grow up to be beautiful swans: nine times out of ten they become ugly adults. Why can’t the ugly person end up with a beautiful mate at the end? It does happen. Ask Billy Bob Thornton and Yoko Ono. I guess it doesn’t happen much. But “Shrek” is sort of saying that an ugly person and a beautiful one can fall in love—but then either the ugly one needs to get plastic surgery or the pretty one needs to get hit with a shovel. Is that what we want to teach our kids?

       Otherwise, “Shrek” is good crude fun for the whole family. Even if the fart and jackass jokes aren’t your style, it’s worth seeing for the computer animation. To just sit there and realize that all the people and animals and scenery you are watching don’t really exist—and yet they look so incredibly real—is worth the five dollar matinee price at the Senator.

       But then again, I’m a sucker for good kids’ movies. Last year, my sister went to work and told her co-workers that she’d taken her brother to see “Chicken Run” for his birthday. Her workmates smiled and said that that was so cute and asked her how old her brother was.

       With a smile she replied, “Twenty-four.”

 


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This story was published on May 30, 2001.