Behold the first of two reviews this week, and behold a new contributor, one Maccewill Yip, with a short but unique perspective on that Oscar-winning film about an ogre that basically spawned an entire subgenre of pop culture-heavy animation.

Logline: Shrek’s an ogre who tries to get fable characters out of his swamp by agreeing to save Princess Fiona and bring her to be married to Lord Farquaad. There’s also a donkey named Donkey.

I love a good re-imagining of fairy tales, from The True Story of the Three Little Pigs when I was a kid to the stories in Politically Correct Bedtime Stories when I was a teen. There are the reinterpretations of Snow White alone, either as a villainous vampire in Neil Gaiman’s “Snow, Glass, Apples,” or as wife to the Big Bad Wolf and the deputy mayor of fairy tale refugees in Bill Willingham’s Fables.

Even with that, it was surprising that it took me a while before I first watched Shrek. Well, not entirely. One reason I did not catch the movie when it first hit the theaters was because at that time I kind of avoided a majority of animated films, mostly because I wanted to seem like someone who was mature and one who did not care much for kids flicks. The last animated film I saw in a theater before my later revival was The Lion King. Most of the films I’ve seen at that period, especially the CG ones, were ones I’ve caught on television: Toy Story 1 and 2, Mulan, Antz, Tarzan, and of course, Shrek.

Before I revisited Shrek, I remembered that I had liked it when I first saw it. However, other than little details here and there, the main impressions that stuck with me from back then are cultural references, the Muffin Man bit, and Smashmouth. So to help contribute for this viewing, I had my good friend and fan of the series, Samuel Lam, join in on the fun.

Is it Better or Worse Than I Remember?

It’s better, but not by a whole lot. Some of it is recalling some jokes and finding new ones I hadn’t noticed before. For instance, this was the first time I noticed the parking spaces outside Farquaad’s castle is in the “Lancelot.” I know it is a pretty bad pun but it for some reason amused me to no end, and I appreciated that they didn’t go for the easier joke of calling it “Camelot.” Another great bit that this re-viewing brought back to memory is after the aforementioned parking lot joke when they entered the kingdom and find the parody of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World,” especially the one bit of lyric about wiping that sounded like it could have been ripped from the Arrogant Worm’s “Assumption Song.”

While watching the film, I realized how much scenes I have forgotten about how Shrek and Fiona got to know one another. Although it was like, what, two or three days, it still worked very well. I particularly liked the county fair-like bits such as the spider-webbed cotton candy and the balloon animals.

I don’t think I minded the use of Smashmouth’s “All Star” and cover of “I’m a Believer” the first time I watched the film. However, probably because it has been overplayed and overused everywhere, the songs are just plain annoying. Plus, it builds to the feel of the film becoming more and more dated.

That leads to one of the inevitable discussion of comparisons between Dreamworks and Pixar. It has become a joke now how Dreamworks animated films overuse pop culture references. The problem with that is what I mentioned earlier: it dates the movie. What Pixar and some of the early Disney films have done is try to avoid making too much references, thus making their films feel more timeless. That said, even though the sequels toss these jokes out without abandon, the first film is a little more restrained. The only really bad one that sticks out is The Matrix spoof, which unfortunately way too many films have done since.

Speaking of something overdone, Mike Myers should stop making sequels after part twos. Proof being this series and the Austin Powers’ one. Also, Eddie Murphy needs to move out of the family-friendly hell he’s been trapped in. Possibly with that long gestating Beverly Hills Cop sequel.

Free-Floating Thoughts:

As Monsieur Hood, this is the second time in the past month that I see Vincent Cassel seduce the main female protagonist. The first was towards Natalie Portman in Black Swan. But then I kept thinking of his role as part of a trio of friends in La Haine.

I get a little Uncanny Valley from Princess Fiona and some of the other normal human characters. At least it’s not as bad as the people in Robert Zemeckis’ recent batch of motion capture movies.

The wolf who dresses like grandma looks more like a fox than a wolf to me.

Sam point out the part when Shrek beats the knights in Farquaad’s kingdom, remembering when wrestling was at its height.

Bill Willingham created great new personalities for fairy tale characters in his comic series Fables. Two particularly strong ones have now stuck in my head no matter what interpretation I now encounter or re-visit: Pinocchio and Geppetto. It happened in both Shrek and Disney’s original film.

Probably the first and last time I’ll ever hear a parfait joke.

Apparently, back when this was still considered for hand-drawn animation, the casting was Bill Murray as Shrek and Steve Martin as Donkey. Even if this failed, I would love to see this combination at some point in the future.

At the end credits, Sam mentioned the incomprehensible pop Jamaican song, noting the early 2000’s when there was a small import of such songs.

Sam and I got a big kick out of a part in the “HBO First Look” special feature where you see John Lithgow both looking over storyboards and cackling loudly.

Seeing in the special features the real models they created made me wonder what a stop-motion version of Shrek would be like. One particular scene in the animation goofs shows Donkey that was fuzzy and also moving around, reminiscent of the stop-motion process.

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