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once upon a time a solitary ogre named shrek ( mike myers ) was really annoyed to discover that his swamp had been invaded by three blind mice , seven dwarves and all the other fairy tale characters in the land , banished from their home by lord farquaad ( john lithgow ) .
unwittingly befriended by a non-stop talking donkey ( eddie murphy ) , shrek travels to dulloc to speak with farquaad , where he stumbles into a joust and comes up the winner .
his prize ?
to save princess fiona ( cameron diaz ) from a tower surrounded by molten flame and protected by a dragon so she can become farquaad's bride .
the ogre agrees to the task in return for getting his solitary lifestyle back in " shrek . "
it took four writers ( ted elliott and terry rossio ( " the road to el dorado " ) , roger s . h .
schulman ( " balto " ) and joe stillman ( " beavis and butthead do america " ) ) to adapt william steig's children's book .
the bad news ?
they've genericized an already simple plotline while heavily under the influence of william goldman's " the princess bride . "
the good news ?
there's so much wacky humor culled from both fairy tales and popular culture that this movie should keep you in stitches .
we get our first inkling that we're in for a real treat as one of farquaad's men , intent on rounding up magical creatures offers 'five schillings for the possessed boy ! ' after observing dreamworks' rendition of disney's animated pinocchio .
meanwhile within the castle walls , a gingerbread man being tortured
by farquaad spits icing and yells 'eat me ! '
before breaking down and solemnly asking 'do you know the muffin man ? '
shrek , a green giant with bobbly antennae-like ears , is a grumpy recluse who really yearns to fit in ( although who could put up with his habit of making candles from his own ear wax ? ) .
donkey is a hyperactive , endearingly stunted creature who can talk and , therefore , believes will make a great misfit pairing with the uncooperative shrek .
donkey proves his worth sweet talking the princess-guarding dragon .
the princess proves to be more than a shade offbeat after learning she's not getting the fairy tale issue rescue she's been expecting .
when fiona's true colors are exposed ( including opportunies for some tomboyish gross out humor ) , a spark develops between her and shrek .
the script's details are gleefully impish , constantly poking fun at disney from the theme park world of farquaad's dulloc with its turnstyle entrance and 'it's a small world' parody of an information booth to the blue bird which meets a most un-disneyish fate after duetting with fiona 'snow white' style .
popular culture is represented with film references to " babe " and " charlies' angels " via " the matrix . "
myers chooses his 'so i married an axe murderer' scottish brogue for shrek in order to give his voice some heft .
while this may prove distracting for anyone familiar with that film , overall it works more than not .
eddie murphy steals the show as the fast-talking , motown-singing donkey , proving once again his talent as a vocal performer ( is it another wink at disney that donkey is paired with a dragon , a creature murphy portrayed in disney's 'mulan ? ' ) .
lithgow's a good choice for the supercilious , height-challenged villain lord farquaad .
diaz is energetic but ultimately nondescript voicing princess fiona .
( a better choice would have been minnie driver , who's proven herself a terrific vocal talent in such diverse animations as disney's " tarzan , " " princess mononoke " and the " south park " movie . )
the computer animation looks terrific ( particularly donkey ) , although it won't elicit the types of oohs and aahs of pixar's work ( " toy story , " " a bug's life , " " toy story 2 " ) .
in keeping with its hip style , pop music is used , which like myer's voice may be initially jarring , but ultimately satisfies ( while surveying bridal candidates via a 'dating game' parody broadcast by snow white's evil queen's mirror , farquaad is told 'fiona likes pina coladas' - cue jimmy buffet ! ) .
" shrek " has good lessons for kids and humor targetted at every age group in the family .
while it may be derivative of the 1987's " the princess bride , " " shrek " addresses a new generation with similar sensibilities and doesn't suffer in the comparison .
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