“Shrek” was released to the world 20 years ago on April 22, 2001, as just an average children’s movie, but a one that has seen great success its whole life. To many who grew up watching “Shrek,” or watched their children grow up watching it, that may not even feel so long ago.
Just like Shrek himself, the film has layers. It has surpassed its goofy children’s movie stage and is considered a classic animated film by professional film critics and regular audiences. In fact, just last year, “Shrek” was inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry,
an honor reserved for films used to ensure the “survival, conservation and increased public availability of America’s film heritage,” according to their website.
As silly as it may seem, it is rather important that the Library of Congress, and everyone else, appreciate what “Shrek” did for society and the film industry. While computer generated imagery movies were in their infancy in 2001, “Shrek” was the first feature length CGI film to come out of anyone besides Disney. Dreamworks even managed to snag the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film. The film made $484 million before leaving theaters worldwide, far surpassing the movie’s $60 million budget.
The true charm of “Shrek” comes in its story though. The movie gets its inspiration from a fairytale-like book by William Steig called “Shrek!”. Like many classic animated films, it deals with medieval royalty, princesses and mythical monsters. The story goes that Shrek the ogre is contracted by Lord Farquaad to go rescue a princess. In the end however, the princess, Fiona, falls in love with Shrek instead of Lord Farquaad. Where “Shrek” differs from its family of medieval fairytales is really in its ending.
In Disney’s similar film, “Beauty and the Beast,” the beast and Belle fall in love, signalling to the young audience that what really matters is on the inside, of course. But just to clean everything up, the beast turns back into a human in the end so that the viewer can know Belle didn’t have to live with that disgusting creature. Disney has for sure sent a valid and educational message, but they still made sure nobody had to live with the beast in the end, just a clean and perfect human being. In contrast, “Shrek” sees Fiona end up as an ogre after falling in love with Shrek, and going off to live with him in their ogre family. Dreamworks did what other movie makers were scared to do: make a character ugly. This truly sends a great message to the young audience, telling them that it doesn’t matter if someone is rough on the outside, they can still live a happy and fulfilling life. “Shrek” and its creators deserve recognition for bringing a new and true message to the fairytale film world.
Beyond its story, “Shrek” gave the world humor it simply wasn’t prepared for. On the surface, the film makes abundant use of fart jokes, potty-humor and anything dumb that a five-year-old would laugh at. Upon its release, some critics were not fond of the immature humor, and said it ruined an otherwise good movie; but then again, “Shrek” wasn’t made for movie critics all over the age of 50, toddlers everywhere surely enjoyed the plentiful references to anything bathroom related. Of course, the comedic value of the onion that is “Shrek” goes far beyond the initial layer. Somehow, “Shrek” managed to stay relevant well over a decade after its release; seated as a prominent figure in meme culture. “Shrek” memes may have hit their peak five or so years ago, but countless teens and immature adults got a real kick out of joking around with the unique film and its memorable characters, not to mention the song “All Star” by Smash Mouth, which saw great success following its appearance in the movie.
Not everyone can appreciate the rarity of a film like “Shrek”, one that offers so much lasting value. It is fascinating to see a film at one point considered a potty-humor fueled children’s gag enter the world as a classic film, and for that reason, “Shrek” deserves some love on its 20th birthday. For those who want to fully appreciate this milestone, “Shrek” is being shown in select AMC theaters on April 29th.