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banner Friday, 29 June, 2001, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Shrek: An unlikely hero
Donkey (Eddie Murphy) balances on the head of the fire breathing dragon
It took two years to bring the Shrek characters to life
By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

First impressions last, so they say.

The first impression film-goers get of Shrek is that the big, ugly ogre is a cross between the traditional Disney-style type and a character from South Park - a fairytale hero for the 21st Century.

The film starts with the pages of a children's storybook flicking over, showing a Prince Charming rescuing his princess.

But then the last page gets ripped out, Shrek shoves it down the outside toilet and the flushing sound drowns out exactly what he thinks of a story with such an implausibly happy ending.

All Shrek wants is a quiet life in his house in the middle of a forest.

Donkey (Eddie Murphy) gets a shock
Shrek can not shake off the annoying donkey
He does not want a smart-ass talking donkey as a friend, fairytale characters camping on his land or to fight dragons in big, old castles.

But when the very evil, and very short Lord Farquaad forces Pinocchio, the three little pigs, the seven dwarves and other classic children's characters to move to Shrek's forest, Shrek grumpily takes up a quest to force them out again.

He does not take kindly to finding the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood in his bed, so sets off to find Lord Farquaad - with the aid of Donkey, for the simple reason that he cannot get rid of him.

And so by a convoluted but highly entertaining route, Shrek treks to Farquaad's over-compensatory castle, fights a frustrated dragon and rescues the stuck-up Princess Fiona, who was expecting her Prince Charming to be considerably more charming.

It is a story that feeds the imagination and the sense of humour and it is so wilfully stupid that it begins to seem really quite clever.

Shrek (Mike Myers), Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) walk through the meadows
And they all lived happily ever after?
Most importantly, it is one of those rare films that can appeal to everyone who has half a funny bone.

Children will love its slightly subversive sense and lavatorial style. Overgrown children will love it for the same reasons - and will get a few more jokes too.

With the bad-tempered, ugly Shrek as the hero, a happy-ever-after story would be a bit too cheesy - so the story is a mild dig at the predictable fairy tales of yore.

All the voices are fantastic and bring the characters to life more than millions of hi-tech dollars could ever do - and the computer animation is said to be the most advanced to date.

Mike Myers is the voice behind the ogre, and strangely plumped for a Scottish accent that is at times frighteningly similar to his Fat Bastard in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

Cameron Diaz is the voice behind the fairytale princess
Princess Fiona practises her kung-fu moves
Whether he is trying to say Scots are ugly, narky and unapproachable is not clear.

But the best voice is Donkey - provided by Eddie Murphy, who creates a hilariously annoying and exuberant character.

Princess Fiona is the most straight-laced role, but Cameron Diaz was apparently in training for Charlie's Angels at the time she recorded it - and used to go into the studio threatening to beat up the story artists in Chinese.

The makers have got the casting and the tone exactly right.

Taking into account the fact that 300 animators worked non-stop for two years to make it one of the most visually-stunning animations ever, this is a pretty special film.

See also:

29 Jun 01 | Reviews
Shrek: Your views
08 Jan 02 | New Media
DVD sales ogre well for Shrek
17 Jul 01 | Film
Shrek shunts Lara in charts
04 May 01 | Film
Shrek animates Cannes
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