Presenting an in-depth look at the current state of Animation
After doing pretty darn well at the box office, Shrek 2 made its home video debut in October. Never having seen it in theaters, this was my first look at the sequel. All-in-all, I was expecting a pretty darn good movie; all-in-all, I was pretty disappointed.
First, I guess I should say I was not too big a fan of the original Shrek. Sure, it was fun- and funny- but not notably so. Maybe I am not too big a Mike Myers fan.... except I love Austin Powers and Wayne's World. Maybe I just do not like the Scottish accent thing...
I decided to go in with a fresh mind- no pro or anti feelings... just let the movie go and see what happens. Then it happened. The DVD starts out with what is one of my biggest pet peeves in DVD's- forced trailers. More about that later, but let's just say this cut any good will I might have had for this film then and there.
The movie begins with the newly-married Fiona and Shrek returning from their honeymoon, and preparing to set up into their home life together. This is almost immediately interrupted by donkey, and then by Fiona's father. Fiona's father, King Harold, is the ruler of Far Far Away; he summons the couple to his kingdom, and a ball to be held in their honor. Boy, does he have a big surprise when they arrive. The King is not too happy to have an ogre as a son-in-law. Fiona and Shrek fight, and Shrek learns something about Fiona's life-long dreams- dreams without green ogres. So when the King sends an assassin to take care of Shrek, Shrek has more than one reason to take to the hills.
Shrek and his rag-tag group head to the Good Fairy, in hopes of a spell to make Shrek more appealing. Things with the fairy do not quite work out as planned... and Shrek ends up with some sort of potion, but no one in the group is exactly sure what. What follows is a classic battle between the powers of good and evil, with a lot of gingerbread thrown in.
The DVD has a great transfer. Considering it was all digital, I guess that is to be expected. Colors are sharp and vibrant, and the contrast is spot on. No film grain or print artifacts to be seen at all. Surprisingly, there is no DTS audio option, just Dolby 5.1 and 2.0. French and Spanish versions are also online. The mix is very nice.
So, what did I think? Well, we already have a great review of where this film goes (or does not go) by Alex Weitzman, who I think puts it quite well. The film is first and foremost a money-making vehicle for DreamWorks. Like 98% of all sequels, the rush to cash in surpasses the passion that made the original film, and the sequel suffers for it. Sure, it is funny, and has some great bits of parody (C.O.P.S., Mission Impossible, The Little Mermaid, not to mention 1,001 children's tales), but the film as a whole lacks inspiration or soul. It plods along through it's predictable and rather pedestrian beginning and middle just so it can get to it's end, and the tacked on musical number.
Speaking of music, that is another part of this film that just did not work. Was it a matter of who is hot today... or who do we need to promote over at Geffin Records? The songs all seemed just tagged in, and do not fit with the action, or add to the story. The film would have been enriched to have just left Harry Gregson-Williams to score it, with some of the disco tunes for decoration. The more modern songs were just distracting. The one that also most works in "Changes", originally by David Bowie; here remixed with butterfly boucher.
I had a chance to see butterfly perform a few months ago. I find it interesting she was chosen to appear musically in the film because this film and butterfly's performance share a lot in common. They are both relatively pleasant to look at, rather technically accomplished, they were both even entertaining... but when the show is over, there is no song stuck in your head to hum. Both are rather uninspired and ultimately unmemorable.
The animation did not kill me, either. Perhaps that is from just coming off seeing The Incredibles, but the animation hardly seems life-like at all. Puss-in-Boots (and the wolf, for that matter) are good examples of creatures that just do not look right, ever. The design was detailed, for sure- just not real. Character movement at times seemed very unreal, as if the characters had no real mass. And I found lip-sync to be horribly off in almost every shot.
Before I sound like I am totally down on PDI, I should say I did like the scenics. The backgrounds were all great- spacious, colorful... well done. The lighting was used to some great effect in various places. It just looked like the animation was pasted in.
Now, to my pet peeve- the forced trailers. I first noticed this in films from Universal, and I am sad to see it spreading to DreamWorks. The forced trailer is just that- a trailer you MUST sit through to get to the menu, and the movie. Both Universal and DreamWorks on this DVD let you Fast forward through the trailer... but you should be able to either hit "menu" or "chapter skip" on your remote to get beyond them. I am sure the marketing types at the studios are quite proud of themselves for coming up with this trick... make people watch "Shark Tale" and "Madagascar" every time they watch Shrek 2. And right now, possibly it might seem to make good marketing sense. It does not. All it does is piss off the viewer. IF I WANTED TO WATCH THE TRAILERS, I WOULD! And I usually do- ONCE! How much sense is it going to make in 2007 to make me watch a trailer for "Shark Tale in theaters now!"?
No matter what you may think, fast forward is NOT a good option. On my players, I have to continually hold that button down for the 2-3 minutes it takes to scan by the stupid trailers. Think that makes me- or others like me- happy? You have to go out of your way to do this... so just stop it.
I will tell you what I do when I get DVD's like this... and what I will do with Shrek 2. I return them for a refund. I make no bones about it when I return them- forced trailers are NOT acceptable, no matter how much I like a film. I make them put that on the return slip. I suggest that if this upsets you as much as it does me, you follow suit. Don't buy films with forced trailers!
On my scale of avoid, rent or buy, this is a DVD to avoid- until DreamWorks gets their release together. Even then, it only gets up to rent.
A Review by Dave Koch
First Published on November 21, 2004
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