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I have a confession: knowing that Shrek is fifteen years old today makes me feel exceptionally old (and I’m only 27).
On this day in film history, Shrek was released by DreamWorks Pictures and established the studio as a competitor to Pixar in the world of computer animation (as the technology used in Shrek was state of the art at the time of release). The film is a combination of a parody film and a fractured fairy tale in that, at times the film openly mocks pop culture (Duloc is a parody of Disneyland) and it also twists the original fairy tales (princesses are supposed to be rescued by handsome princes and defended FROM the ogre, not vice versa).
In this story, reclusive ogre Shrek (Mike Meyers) is forced into a quest to rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) for the spineless Lord Farquad (John Lithgow) when his swamp home is overrun with fairy tale refugees driven out by Farquad (who desires perfection above all else, and fairy tale creatures don’t belong as far as he is concerned). Fiona appears to be a spoiled princess upon first meeting: she’s miffed that she’s been rescued by an ogre and not “Prince Charming”, she’s rude and demanding, but over time she, Shrek and Shrek’s annoying sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy) reach an understanding.
But Fiona has a BIG secret of her own. It turns out (*spoiler alert*) that she’s under a curse: by day she’s a gorgeous princess, but by night, she turns into an ogre (a female version of Shrek, to be precise). She tries to tell Shrek about it because she discovers she wants to go off with the ogre (and to heck with “happily ever after”) but due to a misunderstanding, Shrek thinks that Fiona hates him for being a “beast” (not realizing that Fiona was talking about herself). As a result, an unhappy Fiona ends up being led away by Lord Farquad (who also has no idea about his bride-to-be’s secret). Thankfully, due to some intervention by Donkey, Shrek comes to accept that he does love Fiona after all and saves her at the last minute from being wed to Farquad (who himself ends up as a dragon’s dinner in a particularly satisfying moment).
In one final twist, the curse is broken, but instead of remaining human (as you might expect in a traditional fairy tale film), Fiona remains an ogre (which makes her absolutely beautiful in Shrek’s eyes) and they get married and ride off in an onion carriage (a parody of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage), but is it happily ever after? Shrek 2 might have something to say about that…
I remember going to see this movie in theaters and laughing hysterically for most of the story. The film does appear slightly dated fifteen years down the road (CGI has advanced by leaps and bounds since then) but it’s still a cute family film (that will hopefully be added to my collection someday).
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