Two decades on, this Oscar-winning, Cannes Palme d’Or-nominated (!) animated delight remains as energetic, refreshing and meaningful as ever.
Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Vincent Cassel
Plot: A mean lord exiles fairytale creatures to the swamp of a grumpy ogre, who must go on a quest and rescue a princess for the lord in order to get his land back.
Awards: Won Best Animated Feature & Nom. for Best Adapted Screenplay (Oscars); Nom. for Palme d’Or & Camera d’Or (Cannes)
Subject Matter: Light – Hero’s Journey
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Mainstream
It has been 20 years since Shrek was released to universal popular delight, winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and even competing for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. (Shrek 2 also had another stab at the Palme d’Or, which if you think about it, was unprecedented in film history.)
The misunderstood green ogre, voiced empathetically by Mike Myers, is contrasted with Eddie Murphy’s motormouth Donkey, forming an irresistible pair as they go on a hero’s journey to rescue a princess (a damsel who’s not exactly in distress) from a castle tightly-guarded by an intimidating dragon.
Fantastic voice acting aside, Shrek remains refreshing as ever, as it uproots nearly every stereotype and convention of the fairy tale.
“Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers.”
As a result, there is much to glean from a narrative with exuberant characters that tells us, among other things, not to judge a book by its cover, Shrek and Donkey’s nemesis come in the form of Lord Farquaad, who promises that Shrek’s swampy land will be returned to him if he brings the aforesaid Princess Fiona to seek the Lord’s hand in marriage.
A takedown of traditions, the English monarchy, and everything in between, Shrek also has fun making fun of numerous characters whom we have been acquainted with in our childhood, including the Three Little Pigs, Pinocchio, and Robin Hood, who’s featured in one song-and-dance segment.
It may sometimes be zany and all, but why Shrek still resonates with us is because it has so successfully cultivated us to like—and not detest—the green ogre and his friends. The film could have bombed but audiences believed in its message of love, friendship and compassion.