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Click above to purchase "Shrek Special Edition" at amazon.com

 

Shrek
Special Edition

review by Zach B.

 

Rated PG

Studio: Dreamworks

Running Time: 93 minutes

Starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow

Written by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Joe Stillman and Roger S.H. Schulman
Based upon the book by William Steig

Directed by Andrew Adamson Vicky Jenson

Retail Price: $26.95

Features:
Disc 1 - DWK: Favorite Scenes, Baha Men "Best Years Of Our Lives" Music Video, The Making of the Baha Men Video, Smash Mouth "I'm A Believer" Music Video, Rescue The Princess game, Shrektacular Trivia, Character Morph, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Dress Up The Gingerbread Man. HBO First Look: The Making Of "Shrek", Cast and Filmmakers Bios, Production Notes, Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party, "Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron" Sneak Peek. DVD-ROM: Games, Shrek's Revoice Studio

Disc 2 - Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Adamson, Director Vicky Jenson and Producer Aaron Warner, Storyboard Pitch Of Deleted Scenes, The Tech Of Shrek featurette, Technical "Goofs", Progression Reels, Dubbing Featurette, Xbox Game Playing Hints, Cast and Filmmakers Biographies, Production Notes, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Full Frame, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English DTS 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1,Spanish Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, French Subtitles, Spanish Subtitles, Scene Index (20 Scenes)

Released: November 2nd, 2001

Shrek is your average, everyday ogre. He's alienated from the world and likes it that way. He makes candles out of his own ear wax, eats disgusting bugs and enjoys showering with mud. However, after the notorious Lord Farquaad bans fairy tale creatures from his kingdom, all of them end up at Shrek's home (a swamp) much to his displeasment. However, Farquaad makes a deal with Shrek. If he can rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona from a fara way, dragon-guarded castle, he'll give Shrek his swamp back. Along with his new sidekick, a fast talking donkey named... erm, Donkey, Shrek goes out to rescue Fiona and from there, some fun but pretty predictable storytelling ensues.

After some incredible buzz for the past few years and some anticipation, "Shrek" has finally arrived on DVD. Not only has the film been the top grossing movie this year (thus far as of writing this at least), it also got the best reviews I've seen all year (also thus far), every review I read gave it a perfect score, and that did amaze me. Despite all of its commercial and critical success, I personally think it's pretty overrated movie. It's very good film, don't get me wrong, but I really don't understand why everyone thinks it is a perfect movie.

It should be noted that the film is computer animated, and it features some of the most astounding visuals ever to grace a film. Pacific Data Images (PDI) who did work on the last CGI Dreamworks film ("Antz", which was also overrated in my book) has created such a lush, visual world with vibrant colors and beautiful settings. While I thought "Antz" had some pretty good CGI, "Shrek" blows it out of the water, and I think they match Pixar or even beat them with what's in this film. PDI is also working on some other CGI Dreamworks films which will be out in the near future, so I'm pretty interested if their next films will have even better computer animation.

"Shrek" has a lot going for it, as it features a top-notch cast of voice actors, the best assembled since "The Lion King" in my opinion. The film is pretty much contained to four characters: Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and Farquaad. Mike Myers is Shrek and does his famous Scottish accent to bring him to life, and though it works quite well and he is pretty funny with the role, for some reason I felt there could have been more to the performance and character (also, Chris Farley was originally slated to play "Shrek" before his untimely death). Cameron Diaz plays the role of Fiona perfectly, while John Lithgow is simply hilarious and tremendous as the petite Lord Farquaad. I am a big Lithgow fan I must admit, and he really does fit the role perfectly (Farquaad's chin looks a lot like Lithgow's even). My main problem with Farquaad though was not within the character, but rather, there wasn't enough of him. I would have loved to have his role expanded and have more funny encounters, but that's not the way it works in this movie. Oh well, his screen time here is priceless and is not to be missed. And finally, I saved the best for last. Eddie Murphy gives the best voice-over performance since Robin Williams in "Aladdin" as Donkey. Murphy brings so much energy and hyper-activity to the role, and makes him lovable and kind of annoying all at the same time. Murphy sets the tone of the character perfectly, as he has some really inspired lines and gives one heck of a performance (and you thought his singing career ended in the 1980s? think again. Wait until you see the closing musical number).

It's also fair to say that "Shrek" does take a few stabs at Disney. Stabs? More like bashes. But so many have been going on and on and on how this movie really rips the Disney empire to death and that it's the whole movie, but that's not true. It's only several jokes, as the movie has a much different focus (more on that later). "Shrek" features quite a few truly inspired and classic scenes that clearly takes shots at them. I simply loved the dead-on parody of "It's A Small World", the kiosks and the ropes for the line waiting as well as the merchandise shop. There are also some things with their fairy tales and many can argue that Lord Farquaad has some of Disney head honcho Eisner in him. Still, it's not a bash Disney movie. There are some great jokes at their expense, but that's pretty much it. As far as other jokes go, they range from old gross-out humor to pop culture references. While some of the references are recent ("The Matrix"), others (The Macerena) are pretty old and have run their course. Still, the script has some other great jokes and has some good lines.

My main problem with "Shrek" though is that there's nothing really new as far as the story telling goes. It's downright predictable, but there have been so many other movies that make points about physical appearance not counting so much and about isolation. The movie's pace is really brisk and while the time flies, I got the feeling that there could have been more to the plot and more conflict. There's also a twist ending which I will not reveal, but right when a certain something mentions something, you instantly know it. You don't need to think you know it and by that time you know how it ends. The "twist" ending is pretty good and does fit with the story's theme, but for me, this movie has so much and could have made what it has so much more (as I said, I would have liked more Farquaad and I would also have liked more on his "Magic Kingdom").

"Shrek" is a great movie for families alike. Adults will love the inside jokes, kids are to more laugh at the broad, gross-out humor. It does teach a very important lesson though about shunning others and about how what inside of you really does count. While the computer animation is gorgeous and the voice acting is fantastic, there could have been more jokes and more to the story. Again, I don't understand why everyone thinks it's a great movie. "Shrek" is simply a good movie. Basically, "Shrek" is an old toy wrapped in new packaging. The new package may attract you, but when you come down to it, you'll realize the toy is something you've seen or have had before. And what do you play with or look at more? The toy or the package? My point exactly.

In a great movie, Dreamworks is pleasing everyone as "Shrek" contains two transfers. For families we are treated to a 1.33:1 full screen transfer on the first disc, and for film and widescreen buffs there's an anamorphic widescreen transfer in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on the second disc. This is a good move and will make everyone complaint-free, since so many people of all ages enjoyed the film. So how are the transfers? Dreamworks, who has delivered great live action film transfers in the past, always nailed transfers perfectly (or really, really, really close) when it came some of their animated films. With this said, "Shrek" is no different. Using a process that animated film transfers tend to use now, and virtually all the major theatrical computer generated ones, this transfer is directly digital to digital. No film print involved, it's straight from computer files giving you the best, most crisp, most detailed and most stunning image that will knock everyone's socks off. Everything here is golden. No blemishes or pieces of dirt, scratches, dust or annoyances. Black levels are solid, and the amount of detail that is viewed is truly, and I mean truly astounding. Backgrounds, foreground and the characters have so much to them. Everything flows so smooth and nicely in this transfer. Colors are bold and vibrant as everything has the perfect three dimensional look to it. The image pops right out. No edge enhancement or inconsitincies... two stellar transfers for sure, so take your pick.

No disappointments here either as Dreamworks will not only show off your viewing monitor with "Shrek," but your sound system too. Each transfer contains an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track and an English Dolby surround track, plus English subtitles, French subtitles and Spanish subtitles. It seems the full frame transfer is downgraded with options (Dolby Surround tracks in French and Spanish as well), while the widescreen version is upgraded, boasting a 5.1 English DTS track, and 5.1 mixes in Spanish and French as well. In either case, the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS mixes are neck and neck. Each are very atmospheric and bring you into Shrek's fairy tale world. You'll really feel a part of it, as the .1 LFE is very strong and the bevy of surround sounds. From the whole wrestling scene to Shrek rescuing Fiona from the castle, things pack a mesmerizing punch here. Dynamic range is great, and you feel like you're really part of it all. The beautiful and nearly flawless score from Harry Gregson-Willians and John Powell is well mixed and is wonderful. Fidelity is pretty good too. I found the DTS track to be a tiny bit superior though to the Dolby Digital, as I felt it was a bit tighter and had a little bit more dimensionality to it. Still, each track is great. Dialogue is clear with much clarity on both. Other sounds don't overpower, and there's a fine balance between everything. Overall, I'd have to say it's pretty much demo material, just like the transfers. I've heard better DTS and Dolby Digital tracks, but these are quite strong and near reference. Enjoy!

Wow. Dreamworks really went out of their way with this one, and it is no surprise considering how big of a success the movie is. To be honest with you, the way things are set up it reminds me of a Universal Ultimate Edition. You have a widescreen transfer on one disc and a full frame on another, plus each have their own audio options. However, a big kudos to Dreamworks on the way they divided up the supplements. The first disc, which has the full screen transfer as mentioned, features a good deal of supplements that kids and their families can enjoy. The second disc, with the widescreen transfer (also previously mentioned in this review), features the supplements that are more geared to adults and film fanatics as the extras there focus on the making of the film. Again, this is really a thoughtful and great way to divide up the special features that should appeal to everybody. There's not much disc switching involved and it works rather well as Dreamworks pleases both camps this way. Everything just goes perfectly with the context, as they know what will appeal to what. It's just a good, even division.

On the first disc, we have a section for the kiddies, entitled DWK (Dreamworks Kids). While I wouldn't call this a special feature so much, under Favorite Scenes scenes are broken down into five sections with different title names. So, find what you're looking for in "Action!", "Laugh Out Loud," "Cross Out!", "Isn't that Romantic?" and "Weird Animal Incidents."

In "Shrek's Music Room" we have the Baha Men "Best Years Of Our Lives" Music Video and the Smash Mouth "I'm A Believer" Music Video (yet another catchy song remake that got rather popular during the summer of 2001). There's also the brief The Making Of The Baha Men Music Video. It's really promotional, as it has clips from the video shoot, and the Baha Men making random comments on what they're doing. It's only a minute and forty-eight seconds.

The Game Swamp has five games you can play on your player (no need for DVD-ROM here). "Rescue The Princess," "Character Morph,"Dress Up The Gingerbread Man," "Shrektacular Trivia" and "Mirror, Mirror On The Wall" (the last two are in a different section of the first disc, under "Games.") These can be pretty entertaining. Rescue The Princess has film clips combined in while you pick and choose paths. Shrektacular Trivia is a trivia game about the movie while Character Morph has you mixing and matching body parts for Lord Farquaad, Donkey, Fiona and Shrek. Mirror, Mirror On The Wall is like a Magic-8 ball on your DVD player where you ask a question and the mirror answers you and finally, Dress Up The Gingerbread Man has you putting the man in different costumes, as he sings a line or two from a well known children's song. That's pretty fun (but why no Disney bashing in the mouse costume?). There's also a "Help Button" which really just explains what each of the sections are.

In the "Special Features" section, we have the HBO First Look: The Making Of "Shrek" which, as you guessed, is another promotional featurette, but it's not so bad. It has clips from the movie, behind the scenes work as far as recording voices and animating it and a whole slew of interviews with Jeffrey "WHO'S LAUGHING NOW" Katzenberg, Mike Myers, director Andrew Adamson, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow, director Vicky Jenson, Cameron Diaz and others. This look explains the plot of the movie, the voice work and the whole computer animation process. It's your usual fare, but there are some things to get out of this, so it's a decent watch. Fans of the movie should check it out. This feature has optional French and Spanish subtitles.

Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party is the whole new extended ending that appears after the credits on both versions, created just for the home video release. Here you can view it separate. How did I find it? It's pretty good, as it basically expands on the film's popular ending "I'm A Believer" song and dance number. You have great choreography and characters sing a variety of popular songs. Pretty wacky as well as entertaining. It's in anamorphic widescreen, Dolby Digital 5.1 and also has optional French and Spanish subtitles.

There are some very detailed Cast and Filmmakers Biographies and Production Notes (that are also in the keep case insert), plus a Sneak Peak of the Dreamworks' next animated opus, "Spirit: Stallion of The Cimarron." It's presented in anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital (and also includes optional French and Spanish subtitles). It looks interesting, and it's yet another trailer that uses the theme from the movie "Rudy."

Now, onto the DVD-ROM portion, which has been getting the most attention. You have a variety of Games that include "Learn To Draw Shrek," "Gingerbread Hangman," "Soup Slam," "Fairy Tale Lanes," "Bugs and Slugs," "Charming Dragon," "Shrek Pinball," "Pin The Tail On The Donkey," "Fire Donkey," "Color A Scene," "Coloring Pages" and "Ogre Masks." Some of these are more interactive than others, but are nice diversions. Yet the key thing here is Shrek's Revoice Studio. I know it sounds corny, but I always thought it would be cool to put my voice in an animated film (stop laughing!). Now, my dreams have come true as I can record dialogue for twelve different scenes. I found this feature really easy to use, and really, really cool. You can save your work, and it's something you can have fun with and even record your own words for the characters to speak. Be sure to invite a few friends over and have some laughs. This is really fun. Make sure you have a microphone! A big kudos to Dreamworks too for setting up a technical assistance phone number.

Now that we're done with the first disc, it's time for the second disc. First up is an Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Adamson, Director Vicky Jenson and Producer Aaron Warner. This commentary is really delightful, as the three share some great jokes as well as a load of production information on making the movie. They talk about ideas and keep things going a great deal of the time, though there can be a tiny gap here and there. There's a lot of good natured fun in this track, but there's a lot to gain on the process of creating an animated film of this magnitude. Well done. A giant kudos to Dreamworks for including subtitles on this commentary, so technically you can watch the movie without the commentary, but read what everyone says. The subtitles are in English, French and Spanish. I think this is a DVD first and I hope more studios do this in the future.

The Storyboard Pitch Of Deleted Scenes are pretty cool, but despite how fun they are, you can see why they didn't make it into the film. Yet those who present them, the artists, have a lot of energy. The scenes are "Fiona's Prologue," "The Deal" (my favorite one here) and "Fiona Gets Them Lost." Each has two angles, that you can switch during the film. Do watch them!

The Tech Of Shrek is a twenty-two minute featurette that focuses on the animation process. This has a promotional quality to it, but I found it to be rather informative. Interviews with technical directors and animators plus many others are on this featurette, and explains the process of creating the film. This is rather technical, so it won't appeal to the casual fan. It's interesting to see how they had to limit themselves from time to time, and how slight changes and effect the whole process. There's focus on movement, lighting and much more. Nicely done, even though it can drag on at times. This also features English, French and Spanish subtitles.

There are some fun Technical "Goofs" of animation mess-ups, some which were featured in "The Tech Of Shrek." These can be pretty funny. There's also Progression Reels of Shrek, Fiona, Dragon, Dragon's Castle, Donkey, Beast Fiona, Farquaad, Duloc and Shrek's house. These are stills basically, from sketch drawings to final appearance that you go through. Interesting, as always, to see how how things are changed. There's also a short Dubbing Featurette, which briefly explains how voice actors in other countries dub and go about creating their own versions of the characters. I wish this was longer. This also has French, Spanish and English subtitles.

Rounding it all out are the very detailed Cast and Filmmakers Biographies and Production Notes (that are also in the keep case insert) that were on the first disc too, Xbox Game Playing Hints (I can't wait to play that sucker!) and the Theatrical Trailer in anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 Dolby Digital English.

That's about it... it's a great package. The animated menus are very well done, and a big kudos to Dreamworks for including subtitles on a variety of their special features. Also be on the lookout for some easter eggs...

"Shrek," despite being the biggest film of the year 2001 (as of writing this, and there's no doubt if something should surpass it *COUGHharrypotterCOUGH* as far as box office grosses, it will be one of the top films of 2001) and being a critical darling this year, is really, in my opinion, an overrated film. It's not bad by any means, in fact it's pretty great, but it's not just as good as everyone has made it out to be, as well as exaggerating what it is supposed to be. It's a wonderful family film that has humor for young ones and older ones, and is truly one of the best family films out there. The film, being as big as it was, will probably be bigger thanks to this terrific DVD that, by the end of the holiday season, should wind up in nearly everyone's DVD collection. With transfers and sound mixes that simply scream demo material, the depth and amount of extras Dreamworks has packed into this set is rather astounding and there will be something EVERYONE can enjoy. Given the low price you can pick this up for and what you get, "Shrek" is a must for anyone's DVD library.

(3.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(5/5)

(4.5/5)

(4/5)

(4.5/5, NOT an average)

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