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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Shrek: The Whole Story (All 4 Films)



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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted December 16 2010 - 07:52 AM

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SHREK: The Whole Story

(Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek the Third, Shrek Forever After)

 

Studio: Dreamworks Studios / Paramount Pictures
Year: 2001 - 2010
US Rating


Shrek: Rated PG for Mild Language and Some Crude Humor;

Shrek 2: Rated PG for some Crude Humor, a Brief Substance Reference, and Some Suggestive Content; Shrek the Third: Rated PG for Some Crude Humor, Suggestive Content, and Swashbuckling Action;

Shrek Forever After: Rated PG for Mild Action, Some Rude Humor and Brief Language
Film Length: 90 / 93 / 93 / 93 Mins
Video: 1080P High Definition 16X9 - 1.85:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS HD Master Audio, French, Spanish, and Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese


 

Release Date: December 7, 2010

Review Date: December 16, 2010

 

“Look, I'm not the one with the problem, okay? It's the world that seems to have a problem with ME! People take one look at me and go "Aargh! Help! Run! A big stupid ugly ogre!" They judge me before they even know me - that's why I'm better off alone...”

 

Introduction

 

The Shrek franchise is both refreshingly original and ever-so domestic. The balance between tilting the traditions of the fairytale on their heads (accompanied by cheeky, slightly crude humor at which we all can giggle), and the normalcy of finding love, wondering if we are making our partner happy, worrying about having kids, and then not knowing what we’ve got until it’s almost lost forever, doesn’t always make for the most exciting stprylines. The excellence of the voice-cast throughout the four films does manage to keep it all interesting and fun however. Mike Myers, channeling his Scottish grump seen most notably in the underrated So, I Married an Axe Murderer, where he played his own Scotsman father (Heed! Pants, now!), has helped created an iconic animated character in the loveable ogre. Eddie Murphy, with his voice-volume set just a notch higher, and his speed just a tad faster than everyone else, is a very funning binding side-kick character whose ability to generate empathy while grating on Shrek’s nerves is a true gift. Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona brings both the necessary traditional fairytale princess sensibilities as well as the unexpected, girl’s rock traits with aplomb.

 

The Films

Shrek: 4 out of 5

 

In the quiet of a swamp, a mean, green ogre lives a perfect life. His days are filled with mud baths, vermin lunches, and bug-juice toothpaste and his nights are filled with terrorizing hapless villagers, and reveling in the Ogre warning signs posted throughout the forest. He enjoys his life’s simple pleasures behind the comfort of his ‘Keep Out’ signs. One day, his version of an idyllic life is disrupted when the narcissistic Lord Farquaad, a brash and unlikable fella with a Napoleon complex, begins relocating characters from fairytales to Shrek’s swamp. To restore his life back to normal, the grumpy green ogre must undertake a quest on behalf of Lord Farquaad to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona from the tallest tower, guarded by a vicious dragon, and return her to marry the short Lord.  Shrek is an unlikely hero – light-years away from being the typical Prince Charming with his grizzly outlook and gassy disposition, and so saving the princess is not part of the expected storybook romance. Shrek is accompanied by a talking donkey, a song-prone million-words-a-minute pain in Shrek’s backside.

 

When DreamWorks’s animation released the original Shrek in 2001, it was like a breath of fresh air and remains the best of the series. Original, vibrant, energetic, and spunky in equal measure, it successfully turned traditional storybook conventions on their head with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. Sprightly sequences set in the land far, far away, but set to contemporary and upbeat songs that seemed to cleverly splice the storybook world with our modern sensibilities. Though some of the songs may make your eyes roll today (from their overexposure), the entire exercise was pulled off nicely by a playful storyline, solid animation, and a terrific voice cast led by Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, and Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona. Supporting the main cast is the spot-on John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad, Cody Cameron as Pinocchio, and Conrad Vernon as the Gingerbread man who, it must be said, steals every scene in which he appears (“not my gum-drop buttons!”).

 

 

Shrek 2: 3.5 out of 5

 

In the second chapter of the Shrek storybook, Fiona and Shrek are now married and have been invited to visit with Fiona’s parents (the ones who locked her away in the tower) in the Kingdom of Far, Far Away. Shrek is resistant (after all, visiting the in-laws for the first time can be daunting), and their first meeting does not go well. The King conspires with the Fairy Godmother, whose son Prince Charming incidentally arrived to rescue Fiona from the tower too late (Shrek had beaten him to it), to get rid of Shrek so that Prince Charming can take his place and claim heir to the throne of the Kingdom.

 

Modeling Far, Far Away after Beverly Hills, California was a stroke of genius, and for those that either live there, or have visited, their loving mockery of the vibe and lifestyle is sharp as a tack. It allowed the Shrek world to poke at more than the conventions of fairytales. But while Shrek 2 is entertaining, it already begins to show some initial signs of wear and tear, wear that would become most apparent in part three. While I do not advocate that plots in sequels become more outlandish and increase in scale and scope exponentially (without good cause), there is something to be said for the exploration of new themes and paradigms that such endeavors can reveal. Shrek seems to have adopted a more ‘normal’ approach to its sequel ideas, retreading much of the same fairytale notions mined in the original, and tethering them to truly domestic-drama story threads.

 

Joining the voice cast for the sequel is some great British talent. Jennifer Saunders (French & Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous) delivers a convincing conniving fairy godmother character replete with wand-waving song and dance numbers, and enough malicious intent to make you doubt the veracity of magic dust. She is joined by Rupert Evert as the whiny, spoiled Prince Charming, whose self-indulgence is matched only by his propensity to wave his golden locks in slow motion. Voicing the King is the wonderful John Cleese, and as the Queen, the lovely Julie Andrews (though sadly, she does not sing).  

 

Despite the Beverly Hills parody, Shrek 2 does not seem to grow the world it inhabits, nor does it retreat from its original concept. It misses an opportunity to cast its story net wide enough to surprise, but remains a very funny animated film regardless, filled with the same high-quality voice casting from Myers, Murphy, and Diaz, and still filled with cheeky humor and gross-out gags that gave this animated world a little edge.

 

Shrek the Third: 3 out of 5

 

Shrek the Thirdfinds Shrek and Fiona subbing for the sickly King and, upon his death, Shrek’s quest to find Arthur, a potential heir to the throne while fighting off a threat from a minor-character revolt.

 

Perhaps the biggest flaw with the third film in the franchise is the perpetual sense that it is merely coasting on the familiarity with its characters achieved from the first two entries. In addition to the pedestrian plotting of Shrek’s fear and discomfort at the idea of becoming a parent, this third outing finds a washed up Prince Charming rallying the forgotten and discarded sub-characters from fairytales against the kingdom as Shrek heads out on a quest to find the long-lost heir to the kingdom to replace the recently deceased King (and get Shrek off the hook from fulfilling the pomp and circumstance of the role). Prince Charming assembles an army filled with the likes of the disgruntled Hook, the underappreciated seven dwarves, and a slew of broom-riding witches among others.

 

Shrek’s journey has him find Arthur, who prefers to be referred to as Artie; a weakling attending school and the berated and bullied butt of all the student’s jokes. Artie is capably voiced by Justin Timberlake, and the short appearance of Merlin is voiced by Eric Idle. Sadly, the entire Arthurian concept is added to the stories mix almost as an after though and, as such, doesn’t really fit with the rest of the Shrek world.

 

There are funny moments in Shrek the Third, but the feeling of being on cruise control is inescapable. The world of Shrek is shrunken by the events that unfold, and far too often the lack of imagination in the film drains the joy.

 

 

Shrek Forever After: 3.5 out of 5

 

Shrek Forever Afterfinds the lovable green ogre living a life of routine, familial normalcy, and as almost side-show attraction. The once happy existence of scaring the locals and being the feared – and mostly left alone - brute of the forest is but a distant dream. Though joyed by winning the heart of his sweetheart and having brought into the world three lovable mini-ogres, Shrek is unfulfilled. The pressures of married life along with the feelings of inadequacies born of a village that no longer retreats in horror at his roar (and requests it to be entertained), come to a head during the first birthday party for his children. Reaching boiling point, Shrek storms from the party, fights with Fiona, and is overheard lamenting his bachelor days by the manipulative Rumplestiltskin, a mean dwarf who will grant wishes, but at a price (a reminder to us all to read the fine print). Shrek foolishly signs a contract to get a day back as a feared ogre and a reprieve from his mid-life crisis; 24 hours of being feared and loathed by villagers, in exchange for a day from his past. What Shrek only discovers after it is too late is Rumplestiltskin took as payment the day that Shrek was born, and so he never grew up in his swamp, never took the journey to save Fiona from the Dragon’s keep, and the nefarious dwarf was able to trick Fiona’s uncle and aunt to signing away the kingdom (in a scene explained in the prologue). Shrek must reconnect with his old pals, find Fiona, and save himself (and the kingdom) from the alternate reality in which he finds himself.

 

Shrek Forever Afteris a distinct uptick in quality and imagination from the worn-around-the-edges franchise, exuding a freshness lacking since the more inspired moments of the first sequel, and bringing the franchise full circle in terms of entertainment.

 

The cast are well settled into their roles, and the new dynamic for the main characters, rediscovering their friendships, and living tweaked versions of their original selves, gives energy to many moments. Particularly inspired is Antonio Banderas returning as Puss In Boots; spoiled and indulged, the now hefty and rotund cat delivers some of the best visual gags. Again, Eddie Murphy somehow manages to steal the show with his always-funny penchant for breaking into loud song, and all around, this final Shrek is warm, funny, action-filled, and genuinely delightful. The direction is stylish and explores the freedom of computer generated animation, and praise should be given to Mike Mitchel who is perhaps best known for his work on Greg the Bunny - for his invention and raising of the Shrek bar.

 

 

  

The Video: All Films 4.5 out of 5

 

Bravo to Paramount. With each film remastered for optimum quality, the 1080p high definition blu-rays are gorgeous. Each of the films is presented in their original theatrical aspect ratios; with the first three films presented in 1.78:1 and the final film presented in 2.35:1 (I am unsure if the aspect ratio change is related to the decision to present this film theatrically in 3D). One of the most impressive techniques throughout the series is the refraction of light with the use of smoke; some of the effects have been gorgeous and I never tire of scenes where light is featured.

 

With an excellent level of detail and the vibrancy of colors observable and laudable in almost every frame, the Shrek films have never looked this good at home. I was particularly pleased with how blacks and shadows within scenes were handled, revealing the superb detail in the image, and the high-quality animation which remains consistent throughout the series. Color saturation is spot on and, despite being 2D, at times really seems to come off the screen (it should be noted that 3D versions of these films are available as a Samsung exclusive).

 

Many sequences in the films involved complex flying, such as Shrek’s broomstick ride in the 4th film, or the aerial attack in part three, and from the precision of the animation and this hi-def presentation, nothing is missed.


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The Sound: All Films 4.5 out of 5

 

Each of the films comes with a stunning 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The surrounds are alive with activity creating an enveloping and immersive animated experience. Harry Gregson-Williams (along with John Powell for the first film) ably present a beautiful theme used for great tear-jerking effect once or twice in the series, and the entire sound presented from the fronts and rears are warmed by the music.

 

The many pop and other genres of songs featured throughout light up the speakers, rattle the subwoofer, and sound pristine in the perfectly crisp center channel, even when Eddie Murphy is belting out a familiar party song at the top of his lungs. The marauding sounds of villagers with pitch-forks, or an entire Kingdom gasping for breath at their first sight of the miserly green ogre wash around the audio’s sound design effortlessly in what is a knock-out presentation of the audio on each of these films.

 

 

The Extras:

 

Shrek: The Whole Storyblu-ray box set comes with a plethora of special features, running hours and hours, and ranging from perfect fun and games for children to enjoy (and sing along to), to commentaries and behind-the-scenes material that should satiate more adult special feature watchers. Special note should be taken of Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular, a brand-new holiday themed feature. The picture-in-picture Blu-ray exclusives are terrific and worth watching at least once to peak under the covers of the Shrek animated universe.

 

While the musical numbers may not be my personal cup to tea (I was never able to understand the appeal of Smash Mouth), their inclusion will no doubt be welcome here. All in all, the wealth of extra material here, despite missing a few pieces (such as Shrek the Halls) is a rich bevvy of interesting, entertaining, forgettable, odd, and comprehensive extras.

 

There are literally hours and hours of extra features for fans and families to root through.


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Shrek - 4.5 out of 5

 

Spotlight on Donkey

Secrets of Shrek

Deleted Scenes

Filmmakers’ Commentary

Shrek, Rattle & Roll Music & More

Shrek in the Swamp Karaoke Dance Party

Baha Men “Best Years of Our Lives”

Smash Mouth “I’m A Believer”

Shrek The Musical “What’s Up Duloc?”

The Animators’ Corner (Blu-ray EXCLUSIVE)

Shrek’s Interactive Journey: I (Blu-ray EXCLUSIVE)

DreamWorks Animation Music Video Jukebox

 

 

Shrek 2 - 4.5 out of 5

 

Spotlight on Puss In Boots

Secrets of Shrek 2

Filmmakers’ Commentary

Far Far Away Idol

Shrek, Rattle & Roll Music & More

Counting Crows “Accidentally In Love”

Puss In Boots “These Boots Are Made For Walking”

Shrek The Musical “I Know It’s Today”

The Animators’ Corner (Blu-ray EXCLUSIVE)

Shrek’s Interactive Journey: II (Blu-ray EXCLUSIVE)

DreamWorks Animation Music Video Jukebox

 

 

Shrek the Third - 4 out of 5

 

Spotlight on Fiona

Secrets of Shrek The Third

Deleted Scenes

Worcestershire Academy Yearbook

Shrek, Rattle & Roll Music & More

Donkey Dance

Shrek the Musical “Freak Flag”

The Animators’ Corner (Blu-ray EXCLUSIVE)

Shrek’s Interactive Journey: III (Blu-ray EXCLUSIVE)

How To Be Green

DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox

 

 

Shrek Forever After - 4.5 out of 5

Spotlight on Shrek

Secrets of Shrek Forever After

Deleted Scenes

Filmmakers’ Commentary

Shrek, Rattle & Roll Music & More

From Swamp to Stage: The Making of Shrek The Musical

“Who I’d Be”

“Darling I Do” Music Video

The Animators’ Corner (Blu-ray EXCLUSIVE)

Shrek’s Interactive Journey: IV (Blu-ray EXCLUSIVE)

Conversation with the Cast

The Tech of Shrek Forever After

Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-tacular

Shrek’s Yule Log

12 Days of Christmas Pop-Up Book

Donkey’s Decoration Scramble

Cookin’ with Cookie

Donkey’s Christmas Shrektacular:

 

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Taken as a collection, Shrek: The Whole Story is very easy to recommend. The Shrek character is firmly planted in pop-culture and forever more, traditional fairytales may have been parodied to the point of no return (though the classics in the cinematic library, like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White are forever untouchable). The series remains an entertaining collection of cheeky animated fun with plenty of heart and the genuinely spot-on balance of lessons for kids about being truer to yourself, making friends, being kind to others, and a number of other important, requisite ideas to be found in children’s entertainment.

 

Before revisiting these films for this review, I struggled to remember what the main plot thrust was in part three, and finishing this review, it is already starting to fade. The misstep of part three aside, the story of Shrek presented over these four films in beautiful high-definition, with thunderous and crystal clear audio is worthy of wrapping and sticking under the tree this holiday season.

 

Overall 4 out of 5

Neil Middlemiss

Kernersville, NC


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#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted December 19 2010 - 05:32 AM

I find it a tad disappointing that they did not include the "Shrek 3D" film from the Universal Studios Theme Parks attraction.



#3 of 6 OFFLINE   Matthew Brown

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Posted December 27 2010 - 09:06 AM

Anybody have any problems with Shrek freezing about every ten minutes?  I've been looking for a Dreamworks customr service number but couldn't find any.  It's the only blu ray I've every had problems with.  Is there any way to contact them?


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#4 of 6 OFFLINE   ChadMcCallum

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Posted December 28 2010 - 05:02 AM



Originally Posted by Toddwrtr 

I find it a tad disappointing that they did not include the "Shrek 3D" film from the Universal Studios Theme Parks attraction.


I wish it had been included too, along with Shrek the Halls and the Scared Shrekless Halloween special. Still looks like a pretty good box set though.



#5 of 6 OFFLINE   Neil Middlemiss

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Posted December 28 2010 - 09:57 AM

Matthew, I have not experienced any issues with freezing, and could not find word of others experiencing anything like that either. You may simply have a scratched/damaged disc.


Try calling Paramount at 323-956-3010, or exchange for another at the retailer from where you purchased your copy.


Good luck.

Originally Posted by Matthew Brown 

Anybody have any problems with Shrek freezing about every ten minutes?  I've been looking for a Dreamworks customr service number but couldn't find any.  It's the only blu ray I've every had problems with.  Is there any way to contact them?




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#6 of 6 OFFLINE   Matthew Brown

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Posted December 29 2010 - 05:10 AM

Thanks Neil.  I'll give the number a shot.


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