In retrospect, it seems obvious why Shrek has made more green than any other cinematic behemoth this year. The fractured fairy tale about an ogre who falls for a liberated princess offers something for everyone: heartwarming romance for girls, heart-stopping action for boys, and sidesplitting in-jokes for grown-ups.
But another factor accounts for its massive appeal — and it’s not the eye-pleasing animation. It’s the acting. That word isn’t often associated with cartoon performances, which are usually dismissed as ”voice-over work,” yet no animated film since ”Aladdin” has benefited more from star power. As the wildly idealistic Princess Fiona, Cameron Diaz proves that, even when disembodied, she’s a beaut. John Lithgow puts his scenery-chomping powers to good use as her evil fiancé, Lord Farquaad, and Eddie Murphy provides uproarious asides as Shrek’s wiseass sidekick, Donkey.
Looming over them all is Mike Myers. He gives Shrek a gentle Scottish burr that renders the ogre instantly likable and underlines the story’s don’t-judge-a-book moral. Myers’ contribution can’t be overstated. (The late Chris Farley, who was originally slated to do the big green voice, couldn’t have handled the pathos nearly as well as Myers.) In short, it’s a truly animated performance.