Total Recall: The Best (and Worst) of DreamWorks Animation
RT runs down the studio's complete animated output.
5. Shrek 2
The law of diminishing returns tends to apply to sequels whether or not they're successful, but when you're talking about a critical and commercial winner as powerful as Shrek, the odds of turning in a second installment that exceeds the original are pretty slim. Shrek 2 beat the odds, to put it mildly -- at least commercially, where it gobbled up nearly a billion dollars in ticket receipts on its way to becoming not only the most successful chapter in the Shrek franchise, but DreamWorks Animation's most profitable release, period. Critically, it didn't do quite as well as Shrek -- but we're only talking a one-percent difference on the Tomatometer, and the Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan pronounced it "better and funnier than the original," so why quibble, right?
They'd enjoyed their share of successes, but by 2001, DreamWorks Animation had yet to score the type of hit that would help put them on equal footing with their rivals at Disney. Initially, it didn't look like Shrek would break that trend -- the movie's original star, Chris Farley, died before finishing his work, and his replacement, Mike Myers, recorded all of his lines before insisting on redoing them in a Scottish brogue -- but none of the behind-the-scenes turmoil was reflected in the final product, an irreverent bundle of pop culture gags (including an infamous, thinly veiled swipe at Disney's Michael Eisner) that appealed to kids, parents, and critics such as the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle, who succinctly declared, "This is beautiful work."
Already known to animation fans via a series of highly regarded shorts (such as A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers), Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit characters made their feature-length debut with The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a co-production between DreamWorks and Park's Aardman Animations. A major hit outside the United States, Were-Rabbit was considered something of a letdown for DreamWorks, but even if American moviegoers didn't turn out in quite the numbers the studio was hoping for, the warm critical response the film received -- from scribes including the Boston Globe's Ty Burr, who called it "a tiny plasticine masterpiece" -- proved that Park's creations remained well worth watching.