In a Disney-dominated town, it's easy to understand why no one attempts to draw a better animated movie. Lucky for us, DreamWorks created Shrek, an unconventional take on the once-upon-a-time genre. Think of Shrek as a cartoon by the Farelly brothers. With the number of flatulence jokes, you can't help but think that.
Shrek (voiced by Mike Meyers) is your typical ogre--smelly and crude. The twisted ruler of Duloc, Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) is purging fairy tale creatures from the kingdom and to escape, the creatures flood Shrek's quiet swamp. Shrek then approaches Farquaad and must save the lovely but secretive Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) to get his swamp back. The stereotypical sarcastic sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy) joins him and needless to say, they rescue the princess.
Shrek cleverly plays to both hyperactive kiddies and cerebral viewers. Throughout the film Disney is the main source of ridicule. An empty line-up in front of Farquaad's skyscraper-esque castle has a sign that says, "This line has a wait time of 45 minutes." In fact, Farquaad resembles Disney boss Michael Eisner if he was short and he tortured gingerbread men by dunking them in milk. Besides, any scene with the Gingerbread Man singing "Here Comes the Muffin Man" is worth the outrageous ticket price.
It's a credit to the writers that they created such well-rounded characters in Shrek and Fiona. Shrek is a loner--not because people shun him--but because of his assumption he's too ugly and coarse. Then again, drunken farmers chasing after you with pitchforks and torches wouldn't help anyone. Shrek realizes he has something to offer to the world through his journey with Fiona and Donkey. Fiona changes too when she realizes no Prince Charming has rescued her and becomes a strong independent woman. There's even the Matrix spoof to prove it.
But the one flaw is the bad, bad donkey, Murphy. He has a side career providing the voices for snarky sidekicks in case the Dr. Doolittle franchise kicks it. Shrek is an original movie. It takes viewers' assumptions and throws them out the window. Acerbic sidekicks are nothing new.
Regardless, if I was Disney, I'd be watching for a better-animated movie in the rearview mirror. Tell Mickey and Eisner there's a new ogre in town.