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My wife made an observation after we were done watching 'Shrek.' She asked "Was 'Shrek' the first time computer animation took on more adult themes, jokes, and references?" I thought about that for a moment and then decided the answer was yes. 'Shrek' came to theaters in 2001 right on the heels of 'Toy Story 2,' which was released in 1999. We'd already had two 'Toy Story' films and 'A Bug's Life.' Dreamworks' first foray into computer animation was 'Antz,' which was critically acclaimed, but didn't create a franchise for them. They needed a hit, and 'Shrek' was it. With the computer animated films before 'Shrek,' yes, even 'Toy Story,' films always seemed much more geared toward younger generations. 'Toy Story' 1 and 2 can certainly be enjoyed by adults, but it was 'Shrek' that actually dipped into the adult-based humor before many other people did. I still know parents that won't allow their kids to watch 'Shrek' because of its more adult feel. Shucks, they even use words like "damn" and "ass."
Kudos for 'Shrek' going with the risk of being ostracized because of its more adult nature. It paved the way for CG features to not only be kid-friendly, but parent-friendly too. Nowadays, we quite often see CG features that contain quite a bit more subtle humor that flies right over kid's heads, but lands perfectly with older generations (Example: 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ').
Enough with the history of 'Shrek.' The first 'Shrek' film was hilarious in its own right. An irreverent look into the world of fairy tales and popular folk stories. The world 'Shrek' lives in is populated with everyone from Pinocchio to the Three Blind Mice. This storybook world is one of the reasons why 'Shrek' excels so well. There's an endless number of jokes and gags that can be used with this material, and 'Shrek' emplys them perfectly.
Shrek (Mike Meyers) is an ogre who likes, and prefers, his swamp. That is until Lord Farquaad exciles all the fairy tale creatures to the swamp. In order to get his land back, Shrek must rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a dragon-infested castle and bring her back so Lord Farquaad can marry her. He's joined along the way by a talking donkey (Eddie Murphy) and various other storybook characters that all have their chance to shine – the Gingerbread Man's interrogation still makes me laugh like the first time I saw it.
I love the first 'Shrek.' Its pop-culture humor, and its old-school storybook references mesh perfectly together and they're still relevant even today. The movie has heart, but most importantly a funny bone. It's an infinitely rewatchable movie. Dare I say, it's getting close to becoming a modern day animated classic.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount Home Entertainment offers 'Shrek' to 3D Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. Sitting comfortably on opposing panels, the first is a Region Free, BD50 while the second is a Region 1 locked, DVD-9 containing all the special features. The Blu-ray disc commences with a trailer for 'Puss in Boots' before switching over the standard main menu selection with full-motion clips and music. Despite what the packaging reads, this release comes only with a 3D version of the movie; no 2D alternative available.
Presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 'Shrek' brings his fantastical fairytale friends to 3D Blu-ray with a mostly excellent but sometimes disconcerting 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode. Those negative aspects come by way of annoying artifacts. They're near negligible but present nonetheless. In a couple scenes overlooking skies, we can see hints of banding from behind the darkened glasses. Instances of aliasing and minor stair-stepping also creep up around the finer hairs of the animals, most apparent in the close-up of the three blind mice in the final musical number with some distracting shimmers. And Fiona's wedding dress comes with some very light ghosting. The video can also seem rather flat and two-dimensional at times.
On the positive end of the spectrum, the color palette is simply resplendent with gorgeously vivid primaries from beginning to end. Beautifully bright secondary hues add a great deal of life to the picture. Contrast is pitch-perfect with immaculate whites throughout so that even while wearing tinted glasses, viewers don't miss out on a single thing. Black levels are sumptuous, providing the image with some amazingly dark shadows without sacrificing any of the background info. Ignoring the small anomalies mentioned above, the picture is terrifically well-defined and nicely detailed, making the pores around Shrek's face and the hairs on Donkey's body perfectly visible and distinct.
Added to that, the visual presentation of the movie makes an impressively outstanding transition to the world of 3D. Action sequences, particularly the more memorable moments like Dragon's castle or Fiona's kung fu fight, are by far the best parts and easily reach the level of demo-worthy. Don't expect any pop-out gimmicks; these scenes simply come with some rather astounding depth, producing a genuine feel of distance and scope. As with the rest of the video, the background penetrates deep into the screen and creates a wonderful sense of three-dimensional space. The wedding ceremony at the end is also a great highlight as characters and objects appear to float in the middle of the screen. Altogether, the 3D transfer is excellent, ignoring some fairly minor issues.
On the audio front, the Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack is identical to that heard on the standard 2D version, which isn't all that surprising. In fact, it's a pretty spectacular presentation, especially when the upbeat, peppy pop-songs come up. They fill the entire soundstage with energy while spreading into the back speakers flawlessly, generating an enthusiastically cheerful soundscape that's wonderfully enveloping. Rear activity bursts with the discrete sounds of wildlife when the music dies down, enhancing the soundfield to highly-satisfying effect. Directionality during action sequences is equally impeccable and engaging.
The front speakers, of course, carry the majority of the load with well-prioritized and intelligible dialogue reproduction. Channel separation and movement is very well-balanced, creating an expansive and warm image across the screen with several off-screen effects which are quite convincing. Dynamics and acoustics are surprisingly extensive with clean differentiation in the mid to upper levels, and low-bass provides accurate weight and punch to the action as well as the song selections.
Bonus material is identical to what's offered on the previous Blu-ray release, but only accessible on the DVD disc.
Despite the humor being slightly dated, DreamWorks' 'Shrek' continues delivering the laughs with a variety of cultural references. Set in a fantasy universe where fairytale creatures exist freely, the story is an amusing mash-up with terrifically memorable characters. Ignoring some unfortunate anomalies in the picture quality, the 3D Blu-ray arrives with an excellent audio and video presentation that will certainly satisfy many viewers. Although exclusive material is missing from this two-disc combo pack, the rest of the special features are ported over. Recommended.