When Katzenberg left Disney after “The Lion King”, their further animated films from “Pocahontas” onwards suffered as a consequence. Where they succeeded in though was the CG-animated movie field with both “Toy Story” films & “A Bug’s Life”. Their only real competitor was from Katzenberg’s new workplace – Dreamworks whose animation efforts like “Antz” were good but didn’t hold up as well.
Well lets consider those early attempts as “Shrek” returns Katzenberg to his finest form in years and proves to be the best CG-animated film yet. More so than “Toy Story”? Hell yes. TS is a drama with comedic moments, Shrek is a cynical “fractured fairy tale” with lots of humour which, while still family friendly, definitely has a dark twist to it that adults will love, kids will still get a kick out of and one that personally appealed to my taste a lot more than Buzz & Woody ever have. Its a comedy first and foremost and never forgets that fact as the laughs are constant and consistent throughout – with the pace never slowing down.
On top of that the animation is superb. With a film like “Antz” for example, the graphics were rich but aside from a handful of shots, you never forget its very animated. Here there’s a lot of shots where things look very realistic from some great backgrounds to the characters which still look cartoonish, but sometimes the way they move around is really quite scary. I seriously forgot this is a CG movie very quickly, something I could never do with other CG films.
The performances are great all around with each character proving surprisingly distinctive as they all aren’t a saccharinely sweet good-natured lot. Characters you’d expect to be weak, such as Lithgow as the bad guy, turn out to be hilarious. Look for a great torture scene involving the gingerbread man. Diaz also has a great bit as the somewhat tempremental princess with the best scene in the film involving her and a bird singing, doesn’t sound like much but trust me – you’ll be on the floor laughing after watching this scene.
Any problems? To be honest not really. Even though I loved “Toy Story 2”, Hanks’ storyline really dulled and dragged down the pace at times. The ‘serious storyline’ here never does that, and when it comes to the foreground in the last few minutes of the film – it thankfully remembers to keep the laughs up where it can. There’s a surprising twist in the middle, though the ending is quite predictable. Other than that its great, an animated tale that may lack the epicness of “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” but is certainly the best effort of the genre since then thanks to not only its look but its more grown-up attitude and twisted sense of humour. A real highlight of the year, certainly the one to beat this Summer.