Animated movies for kids just dropped a notch in my estimation with the recent release of "Shrek." I wish I'd read some reviews of the much-hyped film before my 9-year-old granddaughter and I went to see it not that it would have stopped me.
My granddaughters, like most children, see every kids' movie that comes out. We're powerless to resist the pull of the massive Hollywood machine that churns them out and sucks us in along with a deluge of related products. The mere thought of the money our family alone has spent on these items in the past dozen years leaves me breathless.
The fun we get from these movies masks the niggling negativity toward certain aspects of these films that lurks in my subconscious. However, "Shrek" stirred it up. If I had paid attention to the PG rating, I would have had some inkling of the crude bathroom jokes and sexual and sexist innuendos. Violence? Of course. Most animated kids' movies are full of it.
As one Internet reviewer put it: "Eddie Murphy's donkey character talks about gasses leaking out of his butt, the princess is referred to as not being 'easy,' Lord Farquaad's castle is described as "compensating for something,' (he's a midget), a chorus of puppets bends over and sings, 'Wipe your face!' while the gingerbread man shouts, 'Eat me!' Parents, you are warned."
In the first five minutes, a narrative page is ripped from a book of classic fairy tales, which the ogre, Shrek shown emerging from his outhouse apparently has used (off-screen) for toilet paper. Quite an opening volley for the movie's attack on Disney's kingdom that ensues.
Another critic, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said, 'Shrek' may be based on William Steig's children's book, but it's also a smug compendium of in-joke potshots at Disney, where DreamWorks honcho, Jeffrey Katzenberg, used to work.
Farquaad's courtyard looks suspiciously like a whacked-out Disneyland, and Farquaad himself is apparently modeled after some Disney bigwig (rumored to be Katzenberg's former boss, Michael Eisner). One wonders, how many 6-year-olds are going to go into a giggle-fit over a Michael Eisner joke?
Not only did the snide shots at Disney fail to register with my granddaughter, she didn't laugh at most of the crude jokes, either. More and more, kids' animated movies are intentionally multi-level the better to lift your wallet, my dear, as Red Ridinghood's Wolf would say.
In this case, the adult-aimed humor maxed out at the puberty level.
The princess sings a duet with a bluebird (think Snow White), and ratchets up the volume so high that the bluebird explodes. The princess spots three eggs in the deceased bird's nest and fries them for breakfast.
Before I had recovered from that bit of heartless mayhem, Shrek grabs an innocent frog and blows it up like a balloon, while Princess Fiona seizes a hapless snake, blows it up and twists it into an animal-shaped balloon. They go tripping off with their road-kill balloons on strings fluttering over their heads. Yech. Not funny. No wonder there is so much ambiguity about animals. In "Shrek," one minute you're dying to cuddle the cute, clever darlings; the next, you're expected to die laughing while they're mercilessly exploited and slaughtered.
Toward the end, the movie turns all warm and fuzzy, and becomes the sappy, stilted Disney-style fairy tale (with an off-beat twist) that it was so cynically trying to skewer. Like the son becoming his father. Go figure.
Maybe a bad fairy has cursed me with crankiness. But before I plunk down my hard-earned retirement dollars for another kids' animated movie, I'll do my homework. I hope Jeffy gets over his Disney snit soon. I'd love to share another DreamWorks winner like "Chicken Run" with my grandchildren.
Contact Vivian Taylor at 474-1386 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.