Shrek: The Whole Story 4-disc box set may not be perfect in terms of features, but the audio and video transfers are all great and worthy of an upgrade over their DVD counterparts. As for the movies themselves, it may not be to the level of Pixar’s Toy Story movies but even the weaker third entry was at least bearable.
Genre(s): Animation, Comedy, Adventure
DreamWorks Animation | PG – 369 min. – $79.99 | December 7, 2010
Directed by: Various
Writer(s): William Steig (book)
Cast (voices): Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Eric Idle, Larry King, John Krasinski, John Lithgow, Ian McShane, Regis Philbin, Amy Poehler, Justin Timberlake
Theatrical Release Date: Shrek – May 18, 2001; Shrek 2 – May 19, 2004; Shrek the Third – May 18, 2007; Shrek Forever After – May 21, 2010
Features: Feature Commentaries, Animators’ Corner (Picture-in-Picture), Featurettes, Music Videos, Specials
Number of Discs: 4
Audio: English (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Portuguese (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
Note: For the sake of time and space, I’m giving an overall viewpoint on DreamWorks Animation followed by my thoughts on each movie with more detail on the features and audio/video for this release.
The world of computer animated feature films was primarily in its teenage years by 2001 as Disney/Pixar had only released to that point the two Toy Story movies and A Bug’s Life (and a few months after Shrek, released Monsters Inc.) and although Pixar still owns the crown of animated features, other studios have stepped up to fill in the gap with some half-decent releases. DreamWorks had already stepped into the computer animation field in 1998 with the release of Antz but their biggest success was with the big green ogre, Shrek.
In the years since Shrek, DreamWorks Animation hasn’t had the best success with their animated features namely Shark Tale standing out as one worst computer animated movies ever made (from a major studio). DreamWorks Animated has since found success with the two Madagascar movies (and a third coming in 2012) including a “Penguins of Madagascar” animated TV series, Kung Fu Panda (sequel set for 2011) and the 2010 sleeper hit, How to Train Your Dragon.
So the advancement of DreamWorks Animation in the computer animation realm has had some speed bumps and doesn’t come close to measuring up to Pixar’s standards but it’s still pretty impressive.
SHREK (2001) – 3.75/5
Plot: In order to rid of transplanted fairy tale creatures from his swamp, green ogre Shrek (MIKE MEYERS) strikes a deal with Lord Farquaad (JOHN LITHGOW) that in return of his swamp, Shrek will rescue Princess Fiona (CAMERON DIAZ) who is being held at the top of a castle guarded by a fire-breathing dragon; along for the adventure is Donkey (EDDIE MURPHY), an overly talkative ass who was saved from capture by Shrek. After the duo manages to rescue the princess, the real journey begins as Fiona doesn’t seem entirely thrilled to be rescued by an ogre though she has her own secrets as well.
As far as second-tier (i.e. non-Pixar) animated films go, Shrek is one of the better films out there and nearly a decade later, still plays well both in terms of animation and comedy, this despite some old references such as Fiona’s mid-air kick spoofed from The Matrix; aside from that other early 2000s references work on their own.
I actually had not seen Shrek in many years but still found it quite funny and as someone who isn’t the biggest fan of Mike Meyers (though I don’t hate him either), this is one of the funniest roles (albeit just voice) that he’s done even if it’s somewhat a carryover from his Austin Powers movies. Not to be outdone, Eddie Murphy also gives one of his better performances in yet another example of perfection in voice casting.
SHREK 2 (2004) – 4.5/5
Plot: Happily ever after seemed so far far away when a trip to meet the in-laws turns into another adventure for Shrek and Fiona. With the help of his faithful steed Donkey, Shrek takes on a potion-brewing Fairy Grandmother, the pompous Prince Charming, and the famed ogre-killer, Puss in Boots, a ferocious feline foe who’s really just a pussycat at heart.
Unless your movie is starts with Toy Story, sequels aren’t exactly common amongst computer animated films and we all know that sequels rarely are better than the original (with The Godfather Part II, Spider-Man 2 and in some elements, The Dark Knight being the exception) but Shrek 2 seems to have stymied those rules.
I remember seeing the film now six years ago to a packed theater where upon Shrek 2 became, at the time, the highest grossing computer animated feature film of all-time causing some angst and anger amongst Internet folk because it supplanted Toy Story 2 and in fact, from my investigation, still holds first place domestically (worldwide, Toy Story 3 holds the #1 place).
Box office history aside, I loved Shrek 2 the first time I saw it and although I haven’t watched it very much since (maybe once on DVD), I still love the movie. The reason I think is that although I enjoyed the inside jokes with fairy tale characters in the first one, this expands the characters more and mixes fun comedy with some thrilling adventure surrounded by a heartwarming story.
Once again, DreamWorks Animation brings together some great new voice talents to the franchise including John Cleese as Fiona’s father, Julie Andrews as her mom, Rupert Everett as Prince Charming and, especially, Antonio Banderas playing the now iconic character, Puss in Boots (who is getting his own feature film in the next year or two). Alongside original cast members Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz, the new additions fit right alongside and help make the story so good.
Another different between this and the original Shrek is the animation itself. Much like the advancement from Toy Story to Toy Story 2 (and in turn, Toy Story 3), is although the look of Shrek 2 isn’t drastically different from the original, but you definitely tell that some of the skin tones look a bit more natural (for green ogres at least) while other elements also seem more fluid than the last go around.
SHREK THR THIRD (2007) – 2.75/5
Earlier I had mentioned some of the more subpar computer animated features? Well this third in the Shrek franchise certainly fits the bill. I didn’t loathe the film compared with some others as it does have a few funny moments, but those are too far and between. Like the previous entries, there are some in-jokes for the adults as well as some for the kids that won’t make the grown-ups groan so the movie at least has that going it. Unfortunately along with some dull moments, the story never quite gets going and despite its short 93-minute running time, seemed all too pedestrian.
One of the issues I had with Shrek the Third was the fact the film’s main villain, the return of Prince Charming (EVERETT), is not at all threatening and his motives – to become the king of Far Far Away and rule with an iron fist – are just lame. The subplot with Shrek finds him, Donkey and Puss-in-Boots going to find the last blood heir to the kingdom (after the king croaks… literally) in Arthur (JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE) who is a loser attending a medieval high school, with some funny modern-esque jokes thrown in. The journey home gets detoured after their boat shipwrecks and they run into the wizard Merlin (ERIC IDLE) who, after some crazy moments which involves an ambush by Captain Hook working under Prince Charming, helps them return to Far Far Away. Can Shrek and the gang take the kingdom back from Charming? Will Arthur become the king he’s destined to be.
I don’t know, as good as the first two Shrek movies were, it’s quite disappointing this third installment seemed like it wasn’t even trying and no doubt thanks to Shrek 2’s humungous box office haul, I wonder if they didn’t rush the story along. Now, I will say that the animation itself does not suffer and in fact looks better than the two previous installments so it’s not an entire waste.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER (2010) – 3.75/5
The final chapter in the Shrek saga ends on a much higher note than the last outing yet still doesn’t quite have the magic of the first two films. That said, it’s still a fun movie that the whole family can enjoy and as with the previous films, adults can get something out of it was well.
The story is fairly simple: Shrek (MIKE MEYERS) is the proud father of three baby ogres and husband to the lovely Fiona (CAMERON DIAZ) but his daily life has become a bore and he longs for the days when townspeople were scared just by the mere sight of him. During a birthday party the strain of this routine comes to a head and he storms out of the room to find Rumplestiltskin who is down on his luck…
At the beginning of Shrek Forever After we find the devious Rumple trying to trick the King (JOHN CLEESE) and Queen (JULIE ANDREWS) into giving up the kingdom in exchange for freeing Fiona from the tower. Unfortunately just as the contract is about to be signed, word comes in that someone, Shrek, has already done it. Now in present day Rumple is up to his old tricks and sees Shrek is vulnerable and presents a contract in which Shrek could have one day to be his old self. Of course it was a trick as Rumple makes it to pick a day when Shrek was not born and thus changing the course of history. Everything changes around him and he’s transplanted into a time when Donkey (EDDIE MURPHY) doesn’t know him, Puss in Boots (ANTONIO BANDERAS) is fat and pampered and Fiona is the leader of an army of rebel ogres fighting against Rumplestiltskin who leads with an iron fist. Oh, and there’s one other wrinkle: Shrek himself will cease to exist by the end of the day with only one way to void the contract which is love’s first kiss, something that will is easier said than done.
Shrek Forever After may not come close to both the story and entertainment value of the first two movies, but by the same token there’s a fun time to be had through the relatively short running time (92-minutes). I do think the story itself a little too simple and TV movie quality not unlike some of the Shrek holiday specials but it’s still fresh and often enough, quite funny.
All in all, even though this isn’t as good as the first Shrek and a far cry from the brilliance that was Shrek 2, I am glad DreamWorks Animation decided to take one more stab to finish out the franchise on a high note rather than leaving it to the mediocrity of Shrek the Third.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.5/5
BLU-RAY EXCLUSIVES – 2/5
Packaging: Four standard Blu-ray cases slide inside a sturdy outer box. There are no slip covers for any of the movies and the covers themselves feature each of the main characters.
The following are present on all four discs:
The Animators’ Corner – This picture-in-picture function features interviews with various members of the cast (Meyers, Murphy, Diaz, etc) and crew (director Andrew Adamson, etc), some behind-the-scenes recording footage, storyboard artwork and pre-visualization computer graphics. Most of the interview footage is from that films year (i.e. 2001 for Shrek). ** Blu-ray Exclusives **
Shrek’s Interactive Journey I-IV – Here you get a map where you can go to various locations and check out the artwork created and those that “helped inspire the creation of Shrek’s world”. Nothing really noteworthy here and in fact could’ve just been called an artwork gallery instead. ** Blu-ray Exclusives **
There’s also the DreamWorks Animation Jukebox.
SHREK – 3.5/5
Filmmakers’ Commentary – Directors Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson and Producer Aron Warner sit down for a low-key but still fun and informative commentary track. They divulge where certain concepts came from, praising the voice talent and some of the more typical commentary elements.
Spotlight on Donkey (11:38; HD) – This featurette obviously focuses on the Eddie Murphy-voiced Donkey character. The cast and crew members talk about the character and how Murphy did a great job voicing him. This is a mixture of new interviews with archival ones plus scenes from each Shrek movie. ** New Feature **
Secrets of Shrek (3:52; HD) – This featurette spotlights the various fairy tale characters that were shown throughout the original movie.
Deleted Scenes (8:01; SD) – Here we get three storyboard outlined sequences that weren’t animated but we get to see some story ideas, a few of which were used in the sequels.
We also get a set of features under “Shrek, Rattle & Roll”: Shrek in the Swamp: Karaoke Dance Party (2:53; HD), music videos for “Best Years of Our Lives” (3:08) by Baha Men (remember them?), “I’m a Believer” (3:15) from Smash Mouth and “What’s up Duloc” (3:57) from Shrek the Musical (** New Feature **).
SHREK 2 – 3.5/5
Filmmakers’ Commentaries – This disc comes with two feature commentaries, one with Directors Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon and the other with Producer Aron Warner and Editor Michael Andrews.
Spotlight on Puss in Boots (10:46; HD) – This featurette, like the one for Donkey, chronicles the character from casting Antonio Banderas to coming up with the personality and making him a fun sidekick and annoyance for Donkey. ** New Feature **
Secrets of Shrek 2 (3:58; HD) – Again, we get more bits and pieces of trivia from sight gags to more iconic fairy tale characters that are sprinkled throughout the movie.
Far Far Away Idol (5:53; HD) – This originally aired in 2004 probably to advertise Shrek 2 in which viewers could vote American Idol style and Shrek, Fiona and Simon Cowell (voicing himself) as judges in which Donkey, Pinocchio, Ugly Stepsister (nothing like Larry King singing), Puss in Boots and others vie for votes… and yes you at home can choose (and see the different outcomes depending on your choice).
Under “Shrek, Rattle & Roll”: are a few music videos (SD) including “Accidentally in Love” (3:22) by the Counting Crows, “These Boots Are Made for Walking” (2:17) sung by Puss in Boots and “I know It’s Today” (5:36) from Shrek the Musical (** New Feature **).
SHREK THE THIRD – 2.5/5
Spotlight on Fiona (9:53; HD) – This featurette brings the focus on Fiona voiced by Cameron Diaz with interviews (mixture of old and new) from various members of the cast (including Diaz) and crew. ** New Feature **
Secrets of Shrek the Third (3:47; HD) are more secrets revealed in this featurette that, based on the voice over, was made to advertise the movie. All this does is rundown the voices that appear throughout the film from the stars to the small parts (Seth Rogan, Jon Krasinski, etc).
Deleted Scenes (25:56; SD) are a selection of scrapped sequences via pitches and storyboards. There’s only four here but each takes quite a bit of time to act out by the crew.
How to be Green (4:03; HD) is a lame ass feature giving tips on you how to be green (reduce, reuse, recycle). Really, don’t even bother with this, just some obvious stuff you’ve already heard numerous times.
Worcestershire Academy Yearbook is a photo gallery where you can check out the pictures from the different students attending the upstanding medieval high school from the cheerleaders to the chess club.
In the “Shrek, Rattle & Roll” category are music videos for the “Donkey Dance” (0:35) and “Freak Flag” (3:58) from Shrek the Musical (** New Feature **).
SHREK FOREVER AFTER – 4/5
Spotlight on Shrek (13:46; HD) – This is the culmination on the profile featurettes chronicling the history of the character through all four Shrek films. Like the others, it’s comprised of comments with the talents behind the movie talking about what Mike Meyers brought to the voice.
Secrets of Shrek Forever After (3:58; HD) – Once again this spotlights the returning talent and the new voices to the final movie including the animators who provide a good number of talent for the film. It also provides insights into the various animation choices for the character designs.
Deleted Scenes (5:44; HD) includes mixture of test and final animation scenes that were ultimately removed to keep the movie flowing as explained by the director.
Filmmakers’ Commentary – This track includes Director Mike Mitchell, Head of Story Walt Dohrn (who also voices Rumple) & Producers Gina Shay and Teresa Cheng. The commentary is lively enough and provides plenty of information about the story, where some of the ideas came from and the changes with some of the style.
Conversation with the Cast (9:18; HD) – Although this is far too short, this panel discussion with the major players (Meyers, Diaz, Murphy and Banderas) in Shrek Forever After is great to watch and see all of them together. It’s moderated by Ryan Seacrest who has a small role in the film.
The Tech of Shrek Forever After (7:32; HD) is another short featurette giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how the movie was animated with some of the newer technology including 3D.
We also get the music video (4:00) for “Darling I Do”, a segment (3:56) from “Shrek the Musical” and From Swamp to Stage: The Making of Shrek the Musical (8:13) hosted by Cameron Diaz.
The disc offers up Shrek’s Yule Log (30:18; HD) which is just a scrolling image of a roaring fire to bring that holiday spirit on Christmas. We also get Donkey’s Caroling Christmas-Tacular (5:11; HD) with optional Sing-Along Lyrics. Under “Deck the Swamp” are 12 Days of Christmas Pop-Up Book (2:18; HD), Donkey’s Decoration Scramble game and Cookin’ With Cookie (4:54; HD).
VIDEO – 4.5/5
SHREK – 4.25/5
The first movie is presented in its original 1.85 aspect ratio and in 1080p high-definition. Given the film’s age (now 9 years old) I was impressed with the transfer. Obviously animated movies often benefit from HD transfers and this is no different. Colors are nice and bright and although it’s not a brilliant looking picture it’s nevertheless still quite good.
SHREK 2 – 4.5/5
In regards to Shrek 2, it is slightly better than its predecessor’s video transfer though it’s still really good. Like the video for Shrek, there’s a ton of explosive colors throughout that comes across the small screen really well. The video is presented with a 1.85 aspect ratio.
SHREK THE THIRD – 5/5
And then the transfer gets notched up one more level. This transfer, no doubt was culminated from the HD-DVD release (which I also own) looks fantastic on Blu-ray. I noticed no signs of any flaws and again the colors pop off the screen really well. With a transfer like this, you’ve got to respect the animators who provide so much detail and it shows off here.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER – 5/5
The last Shrek movie, as one should expect, looks fantastic in 1080p HD. Where the first three movies were released with a 1.85 aspect ratio, this one opens it up some more with a 2.35 AR. Obviously animation lends itself to look spectacular on Blu-ray but this does look incredibly with being able to see each little pore on Shrek’s face, the branches on the ground and tiny hairs on Donkey and Puss.
AUDIO – 5/5
SHREK – 4.5/5
The Blu-ray has been given a really nice 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track. Yep, that’s right we get 7.1 channels of ogre-goodness. The audio isn’t perfect as I was a little disappointed with the levels and a less-than-dynamic aural experience but it’s still heads and tails above plenty of other tracks.
SHREK 2 – 5/5
The 7.1 TrueHD track gets a leg up from its predecessor with crisp audio throughout. The dialogue levels are really good and easy to understand while the sound effects have a resilience that effectively fills up the room.
SHREK THE THIRD – 5/5
Meanwhile, Shrek the Third’s track is much the same meaning it also sounds incredible and may have a slight notch above it. As with the other Shrek Blu-rays, this also receives a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix and also features crisp and clean sound from beginning to end while the subwoofer also kicks in a few times.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER – 5/5
This TrueHD track also sounds fantastic throughout providing some crisp and clear dialogue as well as some nice surround sound for the music placed throughout the film while sound effects also come across nicely via the front and rear channels.
OVERALL – 4/5
Overall, Shrek: The Whole Story 4-disc box set may not be perfect in terms of features, but the audio and video transfers are all great and worthy of an upgrade over their DVD counterparts. As for the movies themselves, it may not be to the level of Pixar’s Toy Story movies but even the weaker third entry was at least bearable. The way the set was put together, it’s ready for individual releases so if you’re not a fan of a couple of the movies I’m sure you can buy it on its own.