Shrek is an anti-fairy tale fairy tale, likeable as such, and animated to boot. It comes as a welcome reminder that cartoons can be both smart and cartoonish, and that the Disney facade sports several large cracks. (Ex-Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg defected to DreamWorks and produced Shrek with some apt shots at his former employer.)
Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) is a rude gentle giant, an ogre who kills wildlife when he breaks wind. Shrek calls a creepy swamp home. One day his idyllic existence gets disturbed when magic creatures evicted by diminutive Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) enter the swamp as refugees. They'll remain there unless Shrek performs a favor for Farquaad: rescue Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a fire-breathing dragon. Shrek sets out with his wisecracking donkey sidekick, played up to a hilarious extent by Eddie Murphy.
In an era of computer-generated tripe, Shrek is refreshingly original. The cartoon swipes at fairy-tale conventions but doesn't let that attitude preclude a high level of levity (or a happy ending for that matter). The actors bring hearty, memorable characters to life in this funny and vivid tale.