SHREK

AFTER 20 YEARS, DO WE NEED A REBOOT?

RETROSPECTIVE REVIEW
By Joel Kalkopf
13th May 2021

You would be hard-pressed to find a film from 2001 that had a bigger cultural impact than 'Shrek'. Okay, that may be stretching the mark just a tad, considering that in the same year we were blessed with 'The Lord Of The Rings', 'The Royal Tenenbaums', 'Amélie', and 'Zoolander' (I'm serious about 'Zoonlander'). Come to think of it, 2001 might be one of the greatest years in cinema.

Nevertheless, particularly for people of my generation, barely a conversation would pass without someone showcasing their "version" of a Scottish accent, or a borderline offensive impression of Eddie Murphy ('Dolemite is my Name', 'Coming to America'). What's more, I can almost guarantee that anyone you asked at the time could recite every word to the Smash Mouth song 'All Star'. Speaking of which, on my recent rewatch for this article, that song still absolutely rocks so hard. I mean, what a superb soundtrack in general. 'I'm a Believer', 'Bad Reputation', 'I'm on My Way' and 'Hallelujah'!? Rewatching this film was like revisiting my old iPod mini, and I mean that in the most wonderful way. It was a blue one, in case anyone was wondering.

Well, get over it people. It was 20 years ago, and we have all moved on. Nobody cares that you like that boulder, that you can't feel your toes, or that onions have layers. Mike Myers ('Austin Powers', 'Bohemian Rhapsody') created a weird and wonderful accent for Shrek, and your attempt at replicating it makes you look old and not "down with it".

'SHREK' TRAILER

Now, I don't really mean a word of this. 'Shrek' is brilliant and deserves all the love it still receives. However, it was not that long ago that a very similar and very real conversation was happening at Dreamworks Studios. Whilst there is little noise about it now, 'Shrek 5' was announced a few years back, and further rumours suggested - rather, they almost confirmed - that it would be a reboot of sorts.

Before you start blowing steam out of your ears, let's just assume that this plan is still going ahead, and take this opportunity to ask ourselves - does the 2001 classic maybe need a new generation of love? Are all those cultural phenomenons still relevant, appropriate, or funny? As a relatively new parent myself, can I imagine my child sitting down to watch this version of 'Shrek', or has it aged poorly over the years? So, looking back at 'Shrek', does it warrant a reboot?

Like it or not, reboots are part of cinema, and the untouchable men with ties on that sit as the studio heads look at dollar signs before anything else. There is little doubt that a new 'Shrek' would bring in a gargantuan amount of cold hard cash, because - let's be honest - it's the parents of the current generation of kids that love this character, and they are the ones that are going to pay the cost of admission.

In terms of the animation itself, that could certainly do with a revision. Watching 'Shrek' now - compared to the embarrassment of animation riches we currently have at our fingertips - is borderline tragic. I have seen mobile games that move smoother than this film, so one has to ask themselves, would a child have any interest in watching that now? This can't be said for any old animation, as I find that the hand-drawn films, however old, still hold a certain quality and charisma that an old CG film lacks. There are motions here that feel so clunky and awkward, and little details that we are used to now, such as embers from a fire or running water, that are really amiss here. So yes, in terms of the animation style, a reboot may not be the worst thing.

"But what about the comedy?" I hear you ask. Without a doubt, I can proudly and confidently confirm that 20 years later, 'Shrek' is still funny. Of course, the parts I found the funniest are not necessarily the same parts that I did 20 years ago, but that is to be expected. Shrek farting in the swamp and killing a fish just didn't elicit the same response to me now as watching the guy standing outside the town of Duloc, running away from Shrek, but still keeping in the lines set up by the rope barrier. Gold.

Looking back at 'Shrek', does it warrant a reboot?

Rewatching 'Shrek' in general was an absolute delight, and it was wild how well I remembered every beat to every scene and every conversation, giving me the impression that I must have seen this film way too many times. The wrestling scene between Shrek and all the guards got me particularly giddy, as it incorporated another childhood nostalgia that is cruelly no longer part of my life: WWE. Oh, how I miss thee.

Another element that really stood out to me was how well the voice actors were cast. Too often, particularly in the bigger studio films, studios will hire actors that can sell tickets, and not necessarily ones that possess the underrated, difficult skill of voice acting. That's not to say that Dreamworks plucked indie actors out from the cold and gave them a warm blanket; the fact is they still hired extremely well-known actors, but these voices are now completely synonymous with those characters. Can you imagine a donkey that doesn't sound like Eddie Murphy? I've mentioned Myers already, but likewise, John Lithgow ('Bombshell') as Farquaad and Cameron Diaz ('Charlie's Angels') as Princess Fiona bring so much joy to the fold that they feel so perfectly suited. I for one, do not like the idea of hearing different voices to our much-adored characters.

And that's just it. Animation aside, I fail to see what a new version of 'Shrek' would really add. The heartfelt lessons of finding beauty inside everyone and not judging in haste are just as prevalent now as ever. The comedy is really funny and still lands most of the time, although I'm sure new references could easily be added in. In terms of the soundtrack, as banging of the original was, this is obviously an area that could change, but to what end? The thought of a Smash Mouth remix blaring through the credits is an inescapable nightmare that would haunt me forever. On a personal level, if I was asked whether or not I'd be happy to show 'Shrek' to my kid, then the answer is a resounding yes. I can't imagine a world where Dreamworks greenlit a reboot (if they haven't already), and it managed to capture the same magic and cultural significance as the original.

I welcome the deluge of terrible accents and quotable gems that continue to shine brightly after all these years. Currently, the only real downside is that if you catch 'Shrek' on Netflix, you'll miss the 'Shrek Karaoke Dance Party', which is a tragic loss that needs immediate attention. The originality that burst onto our screens 20 years ago may have lost some of its edge over the years, but the same cannot be said of its charm and warmth. Therefore, I can say without hesitation, please don't reboot 'Shrek'. We as an audience deserve better.

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