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I had some reservations about Shrek during it's initial theatrical run. Thankfully my girlfriend, being a lover of all things ‘dinky’, convinced me to go. In yet another year of dull, sometimes appalling movies, Shrek stood head and shoulders above most. Does this two-disc Dreamworks set do the film justice? Read on.

Shrek
Feature
The star of the film is a giant green ogre named, rather obviously, Shrek. All Shrek wants out of life is to be left in peace in his swamp to enjoy ogre pursuits. Aside from some minor irritation from the local villagers, he gets his wish; that is until the evil Lord Farquaad starts evicting fairytale creatures from their homes and dumping them in the swamp! Farquaad wants his kingdom, Duloc, to be the perfect realm, and fairytale creatures do not sit well with that idea.

In an attempt to get his land back Shrek, and his lovable donkey called, err, Donkey, set off to Duloc to confront Farquaad. After defeating Farquaad’s knights, Shrek is offered a deal – Rescue a princess in return for the deed to his swamp. Shrek begrudgingly agrees and he and Donkey set off to rescue princess Fiona from the clutches of a fire-breathing dragon.

Along the way they encounter many dangers, and when the princess is freed Shrek must confront the most frightening thing of all, his feelings. Could a princess ever love an ogre, or is Shrek destined to be alone forever?
 
The voice talent in Shrek is first rate. Mike Myers is well suited to the role of the ogre with a heart of gold, even if Shrek does sound suspiciously like one of Myers’ characters from the Austin Powers films. Cameron Diaz is also an excellent choice for the role of Fiona, being able to lend the character both a gentle, loving side as well as a feisty, no-nonsense side! John Lithgow is up to his usual level of brilliance as the vertically challenged Lord Farquad. The guy can really do evil when he wants to.

Shrek
Stand out performance however goes to Eddie Murphy as the fast talking, quick thinking, ever so slightly annoying Donkey. Murphy’s performance is hilarious, and Donkey gets most of the laughs from the outset.

The film is full of many hilarious moments, not just in the voice acting, but also in the animation itself. Especially amusing is the way that the film pokes fun at pretty much every fairytale going. There is something for everyone here; kids will love the animation and the slapstick moments, adults will enjoy the film on another level entirely because of its intelligent and witty dialogue. Like most films of this ilk, Shrek features a few racy lines of dialogue, but nothing too smutty, and it should go right over the average child’s head.

Video
What can I say? Never before have I seen such a flawless transfer. Taken directly from the digital source, Shrek looks spectacular. There really is no other way to describe the visual aspect of this release. I didn’t spot a single flaw anywhere, although I’m not one to sit there with the frame advance button checking for the smallest imperfection, but you get the idea. The video comes in two formats; the first disc contains the 4:3 pan-and-scan version of the movie, the second disc houses the 1.78:1 anamorphic version. Both look amazing, but obviously the widescreen version is the preferred choice for 16:9 television owners and movie buffs.

I think it’s great that Dreamworks have chosen to include both versions of the film, as kids probably don’t care if the movie is in the correct aspect ratio, but they could kick up a fuss about it not filling the whole of their TV screen. At least a choice is there, unlike some other recent DVDs.

Shrek
Audio
Shrek has a very pleasant soundtrack, which is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS formats. Both mixes are pleasing to the ear, but I prefer the DTS mix. In fact, this was my primary reason for opting for the R1 set, but more of that later. As is the norm with most animated films, Shrek features a nice collection of songs from acts like Smash Mouth and the Baha Men, along with a fine original score.

Dialogue is clear throughout, which is good news as the vocal performances are intrinsic to the overall success of the film. The sound effects are also excellent, and there are some nice surround moments throughout in evidence, such as when Shrek and Donkey are in the dragon’s castle and the various crowd effects throughout the film.

It’s worth noting that the DTS mix is only available on the second, widescreen version of the film. The pan-and-scan disc contains Dolby 5.1 only.

Extras
There is a very generous amount of bonus material spread across the two discs. Disc one includes an HBO making of special, a sneak peek of the new Dreamworks film ‘Spirit’, character interviews, hidden fun facts, and the Shrek karaoke music video. The character interviews are a novel feature, but they’re fairly short and John Lithgow’s Lord Farquaad is conspicuous by his absence.

The first disc also contains the Dreamworks Kids features, such as music videos, favourite scene selection and fifteen DVD-Rom games! Included with the DVD-Rom material is Shrek’s re-voice studio, which allows you to dub your voice over those of the characters in a number of key scenes! It’s great fun for both adults and kids alike. The music videos are also pretty good fun; both songs are very catchy.

Shrek
Disc two houses yet more great features, including a commentary track, technical featurettes, a storyboard pitch of deleted scenes, technical goofs, an international dubbing featurette, character design progression reel, hints for Shrek on the X-Box, cast and filmmaker bios, production notes and a theatrical trailer!

The storyboard pitches are very amusing, as seemingly mad animators run around the room voicing scenes for a small audience of studio bodies. The goofs are pretty cool, and feature things like a fuzzy Donkey, or Shrek with an exploded face! The dubbing featurettes is worth a couple of viewings, and it’s interesting to think that the actors have a chance to really make the characters their own. The commentary is also very good, with a lot of background information on the production. The track is even subtitled, which is a very nice touch and one that I wish was more widely used.

It’s also worth pointing out that Shrek has probably the finest animated menus of any disc I’ve seen. I thought Star Wars was good, but it doesn’t have the charm of this release. The main characters from the film stand awaiting your selection, upon which an amusing animation occurs. For example, selecting the special features option prompts the Pinocchio character to disavow all knowledge of special features, while his nose doubles in length! The other animations are equally as good, especially Donkey.

There are also a couple of easter eggs for you to discover (or if you can’t be bothered just take a look at the link to the right).

Shrek
Overall
Dreamworks have put together a great package, one of the best this year. A great movie, combined with a good soundtrack and unparalleled visuals, topped off with a collection of very entertaining extras, makes for a top-notch release that should be high on everyone’s Christmas list. This set is even more tempting than usual because of the comparatively poor region two release yet to come. For those of you who don’t know, us region two consumers are to get a single disc release, sans DTS and a lot of the special features… Still, enough moaning about the inadequacies of the region two version. This is a fantastic package and comes very highly recommended to everyone. Shrek-tacular!


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