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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 11/20/01



Shrek
Special Edition - 2001 (2001) - PDI DreamWorks (DreamWorks)

review by Greg Suarez of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Shrek: Special Edition Film Rating: C

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A+/A+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): A/A+

Specs and Features

Disc One - Full Frame
90 mins, PG, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 53:19, in chapter 11), single keep case packaging (with internal second disc flap), HBO First Look: The Making of Shrek featurette, Shrek in the Swamp karaoke dance party, sneak peek of Spirit, five "favorite scenes" montages, Best Years of Our Lives music video by the Baha Men, The Making of The Baha Men Music Video featurette, I'm a Believer music video by Smash Mouth, Rescue the Princess game, Shrektacular Trivia game, Mirror Mirror on the Wall game, Dress Up the Gingerbread Man activity, Character Morph activity, cast and filmmaker bios, production notes, Easter egg, PCFriendly DVD-ROM games and activities (including Shrek's ReVoice Studio, Learn to Draw Shrek, Gingerbread Hangman, Soup Slam, Fairy Tale Lanes, Bugs and Slugs, Charming Dragon, coloring pages, color a scene, ogre masks, Pin the Tale on the Donkey, Fire Donkey and Shrek Pinball), animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), French and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two - Widescreen
90 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 53:19, in chapter 11), single keep case packaging (with internal second disc flap), audio commentary track (with directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and producer Aron Warner), The Tech of Shrek featurette, 3 storyboard pitches of deleted scenes (each with two angle choices), technical goofs montage, multi-language dubbing featurette, X-Box game playing hints, progression reel, cast and filmmaker bios, production notes, theatrical trailer, PCFriendly DVD-ROM link to DreamWorks' web site, Easter eggs, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0 & DTS 5.1), French and Spanish (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned


Oh... my... God. Just stop reading this review right now and go get this DVD. Unless you thoroughly hated this film - and I mean, truly loathed it - you need to own this new 2-disc collection. Unprecedented kudos are in order for the DVD folks at DreamWorks, for the Herculean amount of TLC they put forth to produce the most interactive, time-sucking experience in the history of the DVD-Video format: Shrek.

For all six of you out there who haven't seen this CGI animated film yet, Shrek is the story of a gruff, reclusive ogre named Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers), whose beloved swamp becomes overrun with every fairytale character ever conceived. It seems that the evil, Napoleonic Prince Farquaad (John Lithgow) has demanded the roundup of all fairytale creatures in the kingdom. After overhearing that Shrek helped Donkey (voiced by the show-stealing Eddie Murphy) escape his captors, the fairytale creatures set up a shantytown in front of Shrek's hut, expecting the ogre to defend them. Being a gruff, reclusive ogre, Shrek wants them gone ASAP, but the only way to do this is to travel to Farquaad's castle and demand their removal. When Shrek and Donkey (who, for the sake of trying to make the film interesting, tags along) confront the mean, cowardly Prince, he makes a deal with Shrek that if the ogre rescues and delivers his chosen bride, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), from a dragon-infested castle, the creatures will be removed. Shrek discovers, after rescuing Fiona and letting himself get close to her, that she has a little secret of her own that could change his life forever. Valuable lessons are learned, heroes are heroic, villains are wicked and magic plays a large part in the story. Without doubt, Shrek is a classic fairytale through and through.

Shrek is a cute film with some very funny sequences (the gingerbread man interrogation is a scream) and pitch-perfect references to popular culture that are juxtaposed against the medieval setting. And the casting of Eddie Murphy as Donkey was inspired, as his unique readings of the dialog and enthusiasm with the material make the character memorable.

However, after Shrek and Donkey rescue Fiona from her imprisonment, the film comes to a jarring, screeching halt from which it never recovers. At that point, Shrek almost entirely lost my interest, as both the dialog and story became completely derivative, with only sporadic, seemingly obligatory offerings of the witty, edgy humor with which it began so strongly. And I'm not the only one who feels this way. When I saw this film in the theaters, about half way through, most of the young children in the showing were up walking around, talking and wandering in and out of the auditorium. When I saw movies such as Toy Story, The Lion King and Aladdin theatrically, almost every kid in the showings was riveted from beginning to end.

As much as I love Mike Myers, he was completely wasted in this film. If you watched Saturday Night Live during the early '90s, or saw his films So, I Married an Axe Murderer and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, you've seen him do his Scottish thing before, so it's not such a novelty anymore. Myers is one of the most sharply witty comedians working today, with a gift for spontaneity, so to never actually see him perform and to limit his performance to isolated voice work (he did not record his dialog with the other cast members) is doing a real disservice to his abilities.

Like other CGI animated films on DVD, such as A Bug's Life and Toy Story 1 & 2, the transfer for Shrek skipped the traditional film-telecine process completely, and was culled directly from the film's original computer files. Not surprisingly, the images on both discs of this set are nothing short of stunning. Things like film grain and print anomalies are non-factors, and the video is crystal clear, with bold, stunning colors. However, what did surprise me was the almost total lack of any kind of compression artifacting. You know... that ugly, blocky artifacting on discs unskillfully compressed. With the unholy amount of supplements jam-packed onto these two discs (more on this in a bit), I was expecting the video quality to suffer somewhat. But that was, thankfully, not the case.

It should be noted that the first disc of this set contains a full frame transfer of the film, while the second disc is home to an anamorphic widescreen version (framed at 1.78:1). While the full frame transfer isn't anything to sneeze at (visually, at least), the widescreen version boasts more fine picture detail thanks to the anamorphic encoding. Disc One is fine for the kiddies, but the more discerning videophile will want to make Disc Two his or her choice for ultimate viewing.

No less impressive is the audio. The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks on each disc (which are identical) are bold and very active. Expect plenty of channel-play, with lots of directional effects, and rear channels blasting forth music and sound effects. Dialog is always clear and never harsh, and low frequency effects contain plenty of punch and drama. The alternate DTS 5.1 audio (contained only on Disc Two's widescreen version of the film) is better still. More subtlety in the ambient effects, as well as smoother panning transitions, make the DTS track the version of choice for Shrek on DVD.

(Cue deep breath) Okay, time to cover the extras… hope you have some time to kill. When you pop one of the discs into your player, the first thing you'll notice is that DreamWorks put forth some serious effort in designing and animating the menus. Throughout the menu interfaces, you'll see that new animation has been created just for the DVD, and some of the original voice actors returned to contribute to the set (Mike Myers did this previously for the Austin Powers: TSWSM disc). After popping in Disc One, you'll notice a DreamWorks Kids icon on the main menu. Click on it to find an array of features that the kiddies are sure to go crazy for. A selection of montages called Favorite Scenes presents a collection of clips from the film based on the following topics: Action, Laugh Out Loud, Gross Out, Isn't That Romantic, and Weird Animal Incidents. Shrek's Music Room contains the Best Years of Our Lives music video by the Baha Men, a 5-minute The Making of The Baha Men Music Video featurette, and the music video for the nauseatingly overplayed I'm a Believer by Smash Mouth (No more! Mercy, please!). The Game Swamp contains some fun activities that you don't need a DVD-ROM to play with. The Rescue the Princess game lets you make choices that take you down multiple paths to rescue Princess Fiona. The Shrektacular Trivia game is a set of questions pertaining to the movie. The Mirror Mirror on the Wall activity is basically a Magic 8-Ball - ask the mirror a question, press your remote's "enter" button, and hear responses like "My sources point to no." and "It is decidedly so." The Dress Up the Gingerbread Man activity lets the user design their very own Gingerbread Man with various candy pieces. The Character Morph activity is actually kind of lame - you get the opportunity to interchange the head, torso and legs of Shrek, Donkey, Fiona, and Farquaad… whee (but still fun for the kids, I suppose).

The rest of Disc One's in-player extras are found within a more traditional special features section of the disc. The 25-minute HBO First Look: The Making of Shrek featurette is a well-produced piece that briefly highlights much of what went into the production of this film. The first part of the featurette is largely promotional, but after about five or ten minutes, it becomes much more informative from a filmmaking standpoint. The Shrek in the Swamp karaoke dance party is a newly animated, 5-minute segment voiced by the original actors. It's a medley of modern pop song excerpts performed by the film's characters, with each song befitting the specific character (for example, the gingerbread man sings Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?). Note that this plays automatically at the end of the film when you watch, as an "extended" ending. A "sneak peek" of DreamWorks' upcoming animated film Spirit is presented in widescreen… it's basically a long teaser trailer. The requisite cast and filmmaker bios, production notes, and an Easter egg finish off Disc One's in-player features.

The first disc's PCFriendly DVD-ROM features are a real blast. After loading the InterActual film-themed interface, you can take advantage of all the fun, time sucking mini-games and activities included. Shrek's ReVoice Studio is an EXTREMELY cool feature that lets you record your own voice over the character dialog from 12 scenes in the film. You need to buy an accessory microphone to take advantage of this feature, but it works amazingly well and is definitely worth playing with. Learn to Draw Shrek is a step-by-step instructional on how to… well you know. Gingerbread Hangman asks you to complete words before the Gingerbread Man is mangled by your wrong letter guesses. Soup Slam is a game that has you wacking things in your soup so it won't "stare you down." Fairy Tale Lanes allows you to bowl over gnomes instead of pins, while Bugs and Slugs is a game of tic-tac-toe with creepy crawlers instead of Xs and Os. Charming Dragon is a game where you make the movie's love starved dragon catch charms to make her love meter increase. You can also print coloring pages and ogre masks from the disc, or color a scene directly on your computer. A printable version of Pin the Tale on the Donkey (starring Donkey… duh) is pretty self-explanatory, while in Fire Donkey, you must get the animated ass across the movie's perilous suspension bridge without being hit by a fireball. And finally, you get a Shrek pinball game… good ol' pinball!

Guess what - we ain't done yet! Now, on to Disc Two… (Cue deep breath number two)

To start with, you get a commentary track with directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, and producer Aron Warner. From a filmmaking standpoint, it's an informative track, but it's not the best I've ever heard… fairly entertaining, but not very memorable. The Tech of Shrek is a 25-minute featurette that's almost a carbon copy of the featurette found on the first disc. Three storyboard pitches of deleted scenes are interesting if you can't get enough of Shrek, but thankfully the scenes were left out. Each presentation has two angles available: one of the audience and the presenter, and the other close ups of the individual storyboards as they're being presented. Probably my favorite supplement of any found on this set, a very cool technical goofs montage is presented that shows the hilarious chaos that can be unleashed when even one single line of computer code is queered. An interesting multi-language dubbing featurette is presented that explains (and even shows) the process of dubbing the film's dialog into other languages. A Shrek video game for the X-Box console is available, and in a way to shamelessly plug it, what we get on this disc is a list of "game playing hints" that boil down to a few tips that any self-respecting video gamer's mother could figure out in her sleep. A progression reel demonstrates the evolution of the characters and environments through conceptual art. And cast and filmmaker bios, production notes, Easter eggs and a theatrical trailer conclude the in-player extras on the second disc. The PCFriendly DVD-ROM features on Disc Two aren't nearly as interesting as the first disc's, consisting primarily of web links. I need a drink…

Do I really need to tell you to get this set? God, I hope not, because I just don't think I could do it all again. Just buy it… you won't regret it. That is, unless you have other things to do, in which case you won't want to start into the ROM activities, 'cause they're just as additive as those plump, juicy onions Shrek is so fond of...

Greg Suarez
gregsuarez@thedigitalbits.com




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