Shrek (4K UHD)

Directors: Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson
Screenplay: Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Joe Stillman & Roger S.H. Schulman (additional dialogue by Cody Cameron & Chris Miller & Conrad Vernon; based on the book by William Steig)
Stars: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (The Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), John Lithgow (Lord Farquaad), Vincent Cassel (Monsieur Hood), Peter Dennis (Ogre Hunter), Clive Pearse (Ogre Hunter), Jim Cummings (Captain of Guards), Bobby Block (Baby Bear), Chris Miller (Geppetto / Magic Mirror), \Cody Cameron (Pinnochio / Three Pigs)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 2001
Country: U.S.
Shrek 4K UHD

Twenty years after it blew open the field of computer-animated comedies with its irreverent genre subversions and put DreamWorks Animation on the map as a serious competitor to Disney and Pixar, Shrek remains a delightfully impudent fairy tale. The titular hero is a giant green ogre, a contented outcast with all kinds of disgusting personal hygiene habits. When the movie opens, we get to see Shrek’s daily routine, which includes bathing in mud, making candles out of his own ear wax, and, in an action that is a metonym of the movie as a whole, wiping himself with pages from a traditional fairy tale.

Shrek (voiced by comedian Mike Myers with one of his slightly twisted Scottish accents) is a loner who lives in a shack in the swamp, happily isolated from everyone else. His idyll is destroyed when the local ruler, the short-statured but gleefully self-absorbed Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow), decides that he wants to “clean up” the kingdom by rounding up all fairy tale creatures and relocating them in Shrek’s swamp. Thus, Shrek finds his beloved bog filled with the likes of Pinocchio, the Three Blind Mice, the Three Bears, the wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood,” and so on. The seven dwarfs show up and try to put the sleeping Snow White in her glass case on Shrek’s kitchen table, to which he responds, “Oh no, dead broad off the table!” (That alone should tell you what kind of movie Shrek is.)

Shrek ends up striking a deal with Farquaad to get all these creatures out of his swamp: Shrek will go on a journey to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), who is locked in a castle surrounded by lava and guarded by a fire-breathing dragon, so Farquaad can marry her and become a true king. Thus, Shrek literally takes on the role of the knight in shining armor who fights the dragon to rescue the damsel in distress, who has been patiently waiting for “love’s first kiss” to set her free.

Shrek is joined in his quest by a talking donkey named ... well, Donkey. Donkey is voiced in a scene-stealing turn by Eddie Murphy, who did similar work as a mouthy dragon a few years earlier in Disney’s Mulan (1998). Murphy, whose distinctive voice has always been one of his strongest features as a comedian and actor, seems born to voice these kinds of animated roles. His Donkey is an energetic, eager-to-please, wise-cracking, loud-mouthed sidekick whom we grow to love even if we wouldn’t want to actually spend more than about two minutes in a room alone with him. Donkey and Shrek develop an amusing love-hate relationship, as Shrek, who prefers to be alone in his swamp, is suddenly forced to co-exist with an animal who literally will not shut up.

As a completely computer-animated movie, Shrek is a beautiful creation that was obviously a labor of love for its creators. It is a movie of great texture and detail, with some backgrounds that are so well done that they could pass for the real thing (this is especially true of the fiery castle where Fiona is being held). The characters themselves are nicely designed and very expressive. Shrek’s smooth green mug can be both fierce and movingly sad, while Donkey’s big eyes and even bigger front teeth work well to underscore his persona. Even though Fiona is designed to be conventionally beautiful, there are a few tricks up her sleeve that I won’t reveal. And Farquaad, with his beady eyes, oversized head, and ridiculously protruding chin, is a perfect symbol of misplaced male vanity.

Based on the children’s book by William Steig, Shrek is quick, light on its feet, and very, very funny. It goes for both the easy jokes (just enough bathroom and flatulence humor to get it a PG rating) and the more complex satire, especially in the way it toys with the traditional gender roles and expectations built into fairy tales. One of the funniest scenes involved Fiona’s exasperated response to Shrek’s “rescuing” her, as she keeps repeating, “This is not how it’s supposed to be!,” which seems to have been the filmmakers’ creative mantra: Don’t let anything in the movie be the way one would expect it to be, which is what gives Shrek its energy and playfulness.

The writers, which include Disney veterans Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio (Aladdin, the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy), also punch up the humor with scads of contemporary references and in-jokes, many of which are stabs at animation giant Disney, the former home of DreamWorks partner Jeffrey Katzenberg, who had been working on this movie for years. My favorite Disney-poking scene is when Farquaad brings in the magic mirror from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and demands that it show him eligible princesses he can marry. The mirror then presents three—Cinderella, Snow White, and Fiona—in a “Let’s get ready to ruuuumble” announcer voice as if they were on a game show, giving them quickie descriptions meant to punch up their sex appeal and allure (about Snow White, he says, “She lives with seven men, but she’s not easy”).

Like most animated movies made primarily for kids, Shrek has a traditional message—don’t judge people by their exteriors—but, it goes about conveying that message in such an amusingly irreverent way that it doesn’t feel preachy or condescending. It is truly a movie that adults will get just as big a kick out of as their kids will.

Shrek 20th Anniversary Edition 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital Code

Aspect Ratio1.78:1
  • English: DTS: X
  • English: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround
  • Spanish: DTS 5.1 surround
  • French (Canada): DTS 5.1 surround
  • SubtitlesEnglish
  • Commentary by directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and producer Aron Warner
  • “Shrek’s Interactive Journey: I”
  • “Spotlight on Donkey”
  • “Secrets of Shrek”
  • Deleted scenes
  • “Shrek in The Swamp Karaoke Dance Party”
  • Music videos
  • Ten short films: Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Party, Far Far Away Idol, , Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos, The Ghost of Lord Farquaad, Scared Shrekless, Thriller Night, The Pig Who Cried Werewolf, Shrek the Halls, Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular, Shrek’s Yule Log
  • Five episodes from The Adventures of Puss in Boots TV series: “Episode 1: Hidden,” “Episode 2: Sphinx,” “Episode 3: Brothers,” “Episode 4: Duchess,” “Episode 5: Adventure”
  • DistributorUniversal Pictures Home Entertainment
    Release DateMay 11, 2021

    Shrek’s presentation on 4K UHD look very good, although it should be noted that this is an up-res of the original, native digital format, which was 1280 x 1024. Thus, the image is not inherently more detailed or contains additional visual information, although viewers will likely notice a perceived improvement in the image in terms of clarity and detail, especially in the fine details like the weave of clothing or the texture of fur and skin. The image is bright and sharp and boasts great color satuaration, from the sickly green of Shrek’s face, to the red scales of the dragon. The contrast is also impressive, which sets off the detail nicely and gives the darker scenes a better sense of depth. The DTS:X and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround soundtracks are also great, with wide separation, directionality, and sonic depth. The film often relies on early 2000’s pop music (notably Smash Mouth’s “All Star”), but there are also some impressive action sequences that immerse us in a fully enveloping aural environment.

    In terms of supplements, there is a ton here, almost all of which has appeared on previous DVD and Blu-ray releases. A few of the highlights include a screen-specific audio commentary by co-directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and producer Aron Warner, which begins with them collectively humming the opening music. That pretty much sets the tone of the commentary, which is much like the movie itself: funny and more than a bit irreverent, although I should note it is also quite informative at times, as well. There are several making-of featurettes and music videos, as well as deleted scenes. The disc also includes more than a dozen Shrek short films. including four Halloween-themed films, three Christmas-themed films, and five episodes of the Adventures of Puss in Boots television series. And then there’s “Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party,” a hilarious alternate ending that finds Shrek and the whole cast belting out various tunes such as Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” and The Village People's “YMCA,” although the best is watching Donkey rapping Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” with the Dragon shaking her booty in the background.

    Copyright © 2021 James Kendrick

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    Overall Rating: (3.5)

    James Kendrick

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