Shrek

2001, DreamWorks

The one, the only, Shrek. This is the brilliant "cartoon" that started the rebirth of Fractured Fairy Tales (and if you understand that reference, you're old like me). Genuinely amusing, Shrek manages to keep the little ones distracted while it tosses out enough pop culture zingers and other one-liners to entertain their parents for the full 90 minutes. Plus, it featured some eye-popping, never-before-seen CGI effects.

My quibbles, however, prevent my ratings scale from being pegged on the high end. For one thing, I'm not sure why Mike Myers was considered a good fit for the lead character; he comes off as decidedly un-ogre-like, and his accent is so bogus that it's difficult to identify it—Scots? Why? And then there's Eddie Murphy as the "annoying sidekick," who lives up to his job title so well that at times he annoys the audience as well. But trivial quibbles aside, this genuine hit launched a franchise I willingly followed to the end.

       

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Shrek 2

2004, DreamWorks

Given the first film's undeniable charm and perfect formula, the inevitable sequel was not unwelcome, and it offers more of the same delightful wisecracking. Just as Eddie Murphy was really starting to get on my nerves, in marches a perfect foil: the smooth-talking Puss In Boots, brilliantly voiced by Antonio Banderas.

       

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Shrek the Third

2007, DreamWorks

The strain of maintaining the level of quality started to show with the third installment, and Shrek was beginning to collapse under its own weight; the gags were losing their effect as the writers struggled to find new material. Despite losing steam, the franchise continued to entertain, just not as consistently. The money shot this time was likely the gag about Pinocchio's underwear...

     

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Shrek Forever After

2010, DreamWorks

Unfortunately it's more of the same, now becoming rather tiresome. There are a few flashes of originality, but despite Shrek's vaguely interesting existential crisis, it simply cannot maintain the momentum. Not to mention that Rumpelstiltskin looks for all the world like a knock-off of Syndrome from The Incredibles. But even at its worst, Shrek is still more entertaining than many other CGI animation efforts, which by this time are threatening to saturate the entertainment industry.

     

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Puss In Boots

2011, DreamWorks

Shrek's most endearing cast member is arguably Puss In Boots, and the writers clearly recognized this from the moment he was introduced. Although Puss In Boots doesn't offer much in the way of story depth—one cannot escape the sense that Puss is spread a bit thin on his own—Antonio Banderas compensates with his natural wit and charm, which always manages to make its way to the screen.

     

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