Stare up into the sky tonight and tell me what you see. We all know the Big Dipper, Leo and Orion. But what's that just off to the right, the one that twinkles ever so slightly? Can't you see it? It's Bloodnut the Flatulent.
The constellations over "Shrek" might seem a little different from what we're used to seeing. But the animated movie does its best to make us feel comfortable. The film literally starts on the toilet, a reminder that even in a fairy land of ogres and talking donkeys, intestinal gas is universal.
But "Shrek" does something that few other movies will likely do this year: It entertains kids and adults. With its sharp cultural references to everything from an empty Disney World parking lot to the Brothers Grimm, plus many jokes aimed safely above the offspring's heads, it has a sophistication rarely seen in animation outside "The Simpsons." But it has all the swashbuckling, magic, physical humor and great animation that could have the kids demanding repeat viewings.
Shrek, being ugly and smelly and all, is an outcast. Not far from his swamp, the petit Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) has sent soldiers to round up all the freaks and fairy-tale characters in his realm (they're too weird). We see Geppetto handing over Pinocchio in return for a reward. One, a talking donkey named Donkey (Murphy), manages to escape and comes upon Shrek, who's skulking around. An uneasy friendship is born. When Farquaad dumps all the freaks into Shrek's swamp, the game is on.
Before we can say The Captain and Tennille, the pair is off to rescue Princess Fiona (Diaz), whom Farquaad wants to marry. Get the girl, and Shrek gets his swamp back. From here the story happily skips along like countless other fairy tales, with a fight with a dragon, the trip back with the princess and a final wrap-up scene that lays on the fromage, but not in a bad way. Along the way, though, "Shrek" declares its independence through its quick wit, a great fight scene with Fiona and a moral that, in this image-obsessed world, is refreshing.
Let's just say that Shrek may be ugly, but he's a swell guy beneath all that fungus.
The movie is helped immensely by its cast, who carry it through some of the early, sluggish scenes. But this is Murphy's movie. Donkey gets most of the good lines, and Murphy hits every one.
There really is no sense trying to avoid "Shrek." It's unlikely that any of the blockbusters that come after it will be as fun or smart. Yes, there are a lot of fart jokes. But hey, this is America. Get used to it.