By MILAN PAURICH
Like the best and most enduring children's movies, "Shrek," DreamWorks' new computer animated 'toon, has what it takes to make audiences of all ages laugh and cry, look at the world in a completely different way, and yearn to repeat the experience ad infinitum.
I can't say for sure after only one viewing whether "Shrek" belongs in the same exalted pantheon as such beloved kids' movies as "The Wizard of Oz," "E.T." and "Babe," but it sure feels like some sort of instant classic. Watching "Shrek," you know you're in the presence of something unique, unprecedented, and possibly great.
Based on book: Loosely based on an illustrated book by cartoonist William Steig, the storyline has a fable-like simplicity. Shrek (Mike Myers) is a green ogre who values his privacy and gets understandably miffed when his precious swamp is invaded by fairy tale characters banished by Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) from his Disney World-like royal kingdom.
What's an ogre to do when his home becomes infested with the likes of the Three Little Pigs (with German accents), Pinocchio, and the Seven Dwarfs? To reclaim his fiefdom, Shrek makes a deal with Farquaad. If he can deliver fair Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), Farquaad will re-route the fairyland squatters and let Shrek be Shrek again.
Assisting the monstrous, if essentially decent beast on his mission is a smart-talking, parfait-loving jackass named Donkey (Eddie Murphy) who's never without a quip or a comeback. After rescuing the princess, the foul-smelling ogre and the beautiful Fiona unexpectedly hit it off on their adventure-filled way back to Farquaad's castle. The story's final twist is equal parts sweet, amusing, and immensely gratifying.
It's funny: Not that "Shrek" isn't funny, because it is: There are more big laughs here than in any movie I've seen this year. Although scripted by a motley group whose credits range from "Aladdin" to "Beavis and Butt-head Do America," "Shrek" has an organic feel based more on situational humor than snappy one-liners.
The rich, almost three dimensional imagery is nothing short of breathtaking, and the level of hyper-realism "Shrek" achieves surely raises the bar for all future animated films. Debuting directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson are to be heartily congratulated for making "Shrek" look more like live-action than any previous computer animated film while still possessing the physical elasticity and boundless imagination of classic cel animation. Here's one for the ages.
X"Shrek" opens Friday at Cinema South, Austintown Plaza 10, Elm Road Drive-in in Warren and Cinema 8 in Hermitage, Pa.