After years of nostalgia simmering on the mind, it is hard to look back on the stories of old with much of a neutral appointment. I am the man that stands by Robots and Bee Movie, after all. They are odd little artefacts, and between you and me, they were far more fascinating before becoming meme fodder for the new generation. Shrek is much the same, a re-telling of those legendary stories, but twisted into background fodder. Directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson are far more concerned with crafting their own experience, using the classics of old as a backdrop to one of the most defining, culturally approachable characters of recent memory. It is terrifying how easy to access Shrek really is.
Aided primarily by its ensemble cast, Shrek has interchangeable characters, yet broadly good voice work. It is not just Mike Myers and John Lithgow performing at their peak, but the supporting cast that brings life to the one-scene throwaways that would soon become larger parts of the picture, give life to the world these directors create. It is a necessity so that Shrek can feel as if it were an already established aspect of this otherworldly canon. Myers’ legendary performance is helped heavily by the strong writing within. There is a feeling that the crew have their finger on the pulse of pop culture, as Joan Jett riffs away through a memorable fight scene that mocks competitive wrestling, there is a sense of refined, polite jabs at the entertainment mediums.
Supremely well-written, and a nice enough knock to the fairy-tale classics, Shrek depends on the reception of the stories it stabs at, as well as the likeability of its titular character. There is a vast element of nostalgia, and the modern pop culture effect Shrek has felt helps too. But Bee Movie and Robots have been offered the same helping hand, yet Shrek is the only one of the three that has a quality beyond post-modernist revival. Its animation holds up with exceptional sophistication, and to a degree, that is the success story Adamson and Jenson present. Their abilities at crafting strong visual humour, as well as witty dialogue and their relentless desire to change the formula of the fairy tale experience, something the franchise would do time and time again in the successful years to follow. This ogre has surprisingly many layers.
Whether it is the desire Myers had in tearing through the narrative conventions of the fictional yarn of princesses and knights in shining armour, or the adaptation of a stereotypical villain shoehorned in as an unlikely protagonist, Shrek has a sensibility that allows it to excel not just as a biting attack on the fairy tale genre, but also as a close ally and comfortable counterpart to such narrative complexities. There is a long-lasting legacy to the Dreamworks animated piece that would reach far beyond the screen that contains the burly green Ogre and his talking donkey (Eddie Murphy). Well-aged humour, like a supremely fine wine, and more than a handful of moments within that will elicit the same, wholesome laughter that the nostalgic many among us were hoping to clamour for as we cope with the rapid process of ageing. Twenty years on, and Shrek still has some loveable qualities to it.