It’s off to think that Shrek would have any sort of significant anniversary, considering it’s near 20 year run as the biggest non-Pixar franchise of the animated world. It doesn’t feel right that this is the 15th anniversary in the same way Iron Man is closer to its ten year anniversary than many people would prefer to acknowledge. With the series effectively wrapped up with Shrek Forever After as the focus moved (and then moved away) to Puss in Boots.
In 2001 the world was a much different place then we know it now, as fans of the silver screen, as Mike Myers was at the height of his powers. The Austin Powers franchise was a year from its finale and Myers was box office gold. He was seven years away from the career killer that was The Love Guru and Shrek at the time was a big risk. It was a project that had a number of high profile exits from its voice cast, as Janeane Garofalo (fired) and Chris Farley (death) were originally slated to be the primary voices, and Myers was brought in with Farley having completed almost all of his dialogue. Myers’ influence would cause some substantial changes and renovations to the final film, as well, and going into release the film there were plenty of questions.
From what had started as a Nicolas Cage project turned out to be arguably the best animated film of the decade as Shrek turned Dreamworks Animation (for a time) into a Pixar rival to be reckoned with.
Simple premise. Shrek (Myers) is an ogre who lives in a swamp in a world filled with fairy tale creatures. When the reigning monarch (John Lithgow) fills his swamp in a gentrification project he’s offered a choice: find a fairy princess (Cameron Diaz) and bring her back so that the king can have a queen. Accompanied by a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek has to make a trek across the land to find Fiona and return her. But not is all as it seems, of course, as the film takes fairy tales and inverts them for hilarious effect.
The film works because of chemistry and taking chances. Eddie Murphy is in rare form, arguably his last great comedic performance, and he manages to bring out comedy in every moment he’s on the screen. Donkey is a terrific character and Myers’ Scottish Ogre play well off one another; it makes you wonder what the two would’ve done if they’d been paired together for a live comedy together. Diaz is a delight as Fiona, a riff on the Disney princess and a fully realized character. She isn’t just a damsel in distress; she’s a strong character and easily the most interesting character Diaz has ever played.
Shrek may have been watered down over the three sequels, one spin-off and countless amount of holiday specials and the like over the years but at its heart is a great piece riffing on the fairy tale while also being a great fairy tale piece. Buried underneath the great humor is a terrific story about accepting who you are on a level all ages can understand.
Dreamworks has gone back to the well and released a number of brand new extras to the film. There isn’t a massive retrospective piece like there could’ve been, of course, but the fact that they didn’t just re-release the original version with a new label is something nice.
Dreamworks presents Shrek (Anniversary Edition). Directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicki Jensen. Written by Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman and Roger S.H Schulman based off the story “Shrek!” by William Steig. Starring Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow. Run Time: 90 minutes Rated G. Released on DVD: 6.28.2016
Tags: Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, john lithgow, Mike Myers, Shrek