Usually, when awards or honors are announced, a good portion of the attention goes to the snubs, the candidates who could have or should have won but nevertheless did not. Recently, I came out with a list of my 50 favorite movies, called the Riker Scale. After watching a movie earlier this year, I realized that not only did it merit a spot on the list, but one in the top half. The Riker Scale list usually fluctuates between the release at the beginning of every year and the release of the next one, but such a change, especially given that it was a movie that I’d seen before, seemed significant to me. Penciling in a change for next year seemed obvious, but further action also seemed necessary. So today, I’m making amends and offering a humble apology to everyone’s favorite ogre. Sorry, Shrek.
To put it simply, Shrek is a children’s fairy tale adapted to the big screen. Shrek is an ogre who lives alone happily in his swamp until a group of fairy tale creatures infringe on his property. To keep his land, Shrek makes a deal with Farquaad, the Prince of Duloc- save Princess Fiona from a dragon-defended castle and get his land, or else. Shrek embarks on a treacherous journey with a talking donkey named Donkey so he can return to his sloppy solitude.
That may seem like your average animated fairy tale, but it’s not. Right now, I have it ranked as my 12th favorite movie of all-time with a 96 rating, so to say it’s above average is an understatement. Shrek is such a great movie because it is laugh-out-loud hilarious, straddles the line between parody and imitation of the animated fairy tale genre and is surprisingly relatable.
Shrek shines most as a comedy. For most of the movie, Shrek is crude, unrefined and totally insensitive to the other characters- the stereotypical ogre. On the other hand, Princess Fiona is the exact opposite. She has been waiting her whole life for her prince to come, and in comes Shrek. The contrasting dynamic between the two characters elevates the plot beyond a cookie-cutter fairy tale to a laugh-out-loud classic. Another comedic aspect I picked up on when I watched Shrek recently- the double entendre one-liners intended for older audiences. No animated movie comes close to the hilariousness of Shrek.
Shrek is a fairy tale, but that doesn’t prevent it from poking fun at animated fairy tales. Shrek is a Dreamworks Animation movie, which is not owned by animation giant and pioneer Disney. Throughout the film, jabs are made at the Disney movies, using Disney characters such as Pinocchio and the seven dwarves. Through Shrek is based off a children’s book, it extends beyond young audiences and earned a PG rating for its mild language and crude humor. At the same time, the plot follows the fairy tale structure with a couple twists and turns.
An ogre as the protagonist of a fairy tale? That doesn’t seem like a recipe for a must-watch movie, let alone one for all ages. But Shrek hits home with me with its underlying messages and theme. At its core, Shrek is an underdog story, proving that even the ugliest, meanest and despised of people (or creatures) can have a happily ever after if they change their ways and care for others. If an ogre can ride off into the sunset, so can anybody.
How did I snub such a classic from my list? My excuse is that I hadn’t watched it in almost a decade and when I saw it, I didn’t pick up on much of the finer aspects of the film. But it won’t be another decade, I’m sure.
The movie Shrek takes a lot from its mean, green protagonist. It’s crude, it’s laugh-out-loud funny and, like an onion, has layers that must be peeled back to reveal its true glory. Shrek is not for everybody, but it proved to me that it deserves a top spot among my favorite movies.