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Shrek: Special Edition

Review Written by: Estefan Ellison
Film: A+
Video/Audio/Extras: A/A+/B

Directed by: Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson
Written by: Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio, Joe Stillman and Roger S.H. Schulman
Based on the book by: William Steig
Produced by: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Aron Warner and John H. Williams
Voices of: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel, Conrad Vernon, Chris Miller
Buy it!, Buy it, rent it or skip it: Buy it

After the success of Shrek, DreamWorks was expected to make a computer animation company in the vein of Pixar. However, with duds like Shark Tale and Madagascar, that did not prove to be the case. It looks like the Spielberg-founded studio will only be remembered for the films featuring the Scottish green ogre. Shrek is based on a children's book by William Steig, however it differs very much from the book. Various subplots were thrown out (but would later turn up in the sequel) and actors died [The late Chris Farley was originally going to play Shrek (It has been said that recordings of him doing Shrek's voice are hidden in the DreamWorks vaults)]. The film would later become a huge smash hit in the summer of 2001 mainly thanks to word of mouth.

Shrek (Mike Myers) is a lonely ogre living in a swamp by himself. When many fairy tale creatures (like the Three Little Pigs and the Seven Dwarves) are deported there, he must visit the evil Lord Farquaard (John Lithgow) to get ownership of his swamp back. To get it back, Shrek must go to an ancient castle guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. There, he must save the princess (Cameron Diaz) that is locked in the highest room of the tallest tower. Accompanied by an annoying talking donkey (Eddie Murphy), he saves her only to discover she isn't want he thought she would be.

The plot is simplistic, but the laughs are high in this brilliantly animated film. DreamWorks's animation techniques seem to be getting worse and worse, unlike Pixar's animators who get better with each picture they make. Like I've mentioned before, the animation in Shrek is fantastic and will probably still be the studio's best even twenty years from now. The actors should also be given credit for hamming it up very well. Eddie Murphy and John Lithgow are the best in the cast, but Mike Myers (who I don't like that much) is also really good as Shrek. The adult humour is great too and makes this more than just a children's film. The Oscar that this "A+" cartoon won for Best Animated Feature was very well deserved. This is a computer animated film, so of course the image looks amazing. They could have made darker scenes look more clearer, but it still gets an "A." The audio is also excellent with the sound effects and numerous rock songs booming very well on the sound system and is of "A+" quality.

DreamWorks has given Shrek a nice two-disc set. The first disc shows the film in the horror that is fullscreen and the extras are mostly aimed for the young ones. Frist is an "HBO First Look" entitled "Creating a Fairytale World: The Making of Shrek." Like other HBO behind the scenes documentaries, this is mostly promotional, but it's still nice. Next is a Sneak Peek for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. I haven't seen the film, but it doesn't look very interesting. Cast and Crew Biographies appear next. I personally think that thanks to the Internet, these features are useless. However, we are also given interviews with Shrek, Donkey and Princess Fiona that are rather amusing.

Next up is the hilarious "Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party" which features the various film's characters singing popular songs like "Stayin' Alive" and "Dance to the Music." The show is a riot and you will probably be finding yourself watching it more than the film. Two games are shown, but they're mostly useless as are all games on DVDs. First is a Magic 8 Ball-type thing and then an extremely easy quiz. I don't much care for wrtten supplements, but the Production Notes are the disc are amazing and give a lot of information into the making of the film.

"DreamWorks Kids" is mostly for children. It pretty much provides different games and music videos. "Favourite Scenes" just skips to various scenes. The Game Swamp brings back the beforementioned games as well as three new games which involve the player trying to save the princess, morphing the characters and dress the Gingerbread Man. A music video and a documentary from the really annoying Baha Men appear as well. The only worthwhile extra in this section is the "I'm a Believer" music video.

Moving on to the second disc which features the widescreen version of the film (which is the way all films should be seen), we start off with the director's commentary. They provide excellent points are various deleted story elements, working with the stars, the animation and other great fun things. Next are deleted scenes shown in storyboard form. They're funny scenes, but it's understandable why they were dropped. The scenes can be viewed in closeup or just showing the storyboard artist talking about the scene. Either option is fine. "X-Box Game Playing Tips" are useless for someone like me who doesn't have X-Box, but people who do have X-Box and the Shrek video game will find it interesting.

"The Tech of Shrek" rehashes a lot of parts from the HBO Special, but looks more on the technical side of things and provides nice information as well. "Technical Goofs" shows very funny animation mistakes especially in things like hair and clothes that go completely wild. The Dubbing Featurette looks at how they dubbed Shrek around the world and they give a lot of talk on the Spanish voice of Donkey. It's a great piece to have here, but it would have been nice if they put an International Comparison clip like was put on the DVDs for Monsters, Inc. and Ice Age, though. The extras finally conclude with a Progression Reel showing previous designs of the characters and the theatrical trailer.

The extras could have been more adult oriented, but what they provide is still good so I give the extras a "B" which is somewhat disappointing for a two-disc special editon. Nonetheless, this is a marvelous film with a great commentary (which is thankfully put on the disc with the widescreen version of the film). This is worth a purchase.

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