Shrek (USA, 2001)
Directed by Andrew Adamson & Vicky Jenson
Starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow
In my review of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I spoke about how the cultural indelibilty of a film, series or character can often lead us to forget how good or bad the individual instalments are. Indiana Jones is as central a part of our filmmaking culture as Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings, and all too often we find ourselves simply reiterating platitudes about their reputations, rather than examining them in detail.
Despicable Me, I took Dreamworks to task in its notion of what constituted a family film. While many of the greatest family films ever made operate on the same level for adults and children, many of Dreamworks' offerings have been structured to deliberately work on one level for young children (e.g. fart jokes) and on another for the paying adults (e.g. jokes about The Godfather and Goodfellas in Shark Tale). Dreamworks are not alone in this regard - see also Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox - but they are the most consistent and successful offender.
The Princess Bride was ultimately indecisive, striking a near-perfect balance between celebrating fairy tales and taking the piss out of them. Even after fourteen years and all its sequels, the film still has an edgy quality in the way that it subverts, questions or dismantles fairy tale tropes. But it also works as a straight-up fairy tale in its own right, for when you're not in the mood for deconstructing conventions or ribbing Disney.
The Hobbit trilogy. Its battle sequences are fast-paced and exciting, its characters are witty and inventive, and all the reference gags (including a neat jab at The Matrix) still hit their mark and feel fresh.
NEXT REVIEW: Jennifer's Body (2009)