There’s nothing short of singular about being a student who decided to stay in Manhattan for the summer. For those of us who aren’t taking a class, traveling to some land far, far away or acquiring a taste for macramé textiles, the question of how exactly we plan to spend the time becomes all-encompassing.
Some might prefer to be productive during a summer in Manhattan, but as for me and my house, we have elected to while away the hours watching cartoons the world would rather leave on the shelf.
While it may be a shining beacon to its studio, “Shrek,” one of DreamWorks Animation’s biggest successes, has had tremendous shadows of recognition cast upon it. Many have praised its groundbreaking satire of Disney as a whole and its progressive acceptance of the romantic relationship between a donkey and a dragon, but one thing has been left woefully unattended.
In short, “Shrek” needs better musical numbers.
The first of these is “Welcome to Duloc,” but it will not be the subject of in-depth discussion. In its tinny annoyance, it sets up the city of Duloc perfectly.
The much more interesting case is seen after Shrek and Donkey rescue the princess and establish Donkey as a dragon’s long-term booty call (he is an ass, after all). Princess Fiona asks to stop for the night because “There’s robbers in these woods.”
The content of the song is of particular interest, because unlike Lord Farquaad, who only wants to take advantage of Shrek’s immense vitality in order to get what he wants, Robin Hood is morally disgusted by the existence of Shrek and plans to kill him.
Robin Hood’s musical number doesn’t just introduce you to a setting like “Welcome to Duloc;” it introduces you to the position this world has on Shrek and Fiona’s relationship. If Shrek is another dumb ogre capturing another damsel in distress, then he must be killed. If Shrek is with a princess for any other reason, then all the worse is their situation.
This assertion accomplishes two things. Firstly, it puts Princess Fiona in the same boat as Shrek. As much as Shrek isn’t stupid or particularly ugly (in this writer’s personal opinion), Fiona isn’t a damsel in distress. Neither of them get a lot of benefit from living in this fairy-tale world.
Beyond that, Monsieur Hood’s moral disgust at what he sees is foreshadowing the evil fairy godmother from “Shrek 2” to the point of perfection.
Here’s the problem: Monsieur Hood’s efforts to pave the way are not very well executed. To be more crass, the song is pretty lame.
Roll through the song in your head. How much of the song do you remember? Look up the musical number, listen to it without subtitles. How much of the song do you understand?
There is a long and proud tradition of musical numbers being written so they can be heard across an entire concert hall, and this song ignores every trick from the book. The lyrics are fast, the tones are hushed and, with one exception, there’s a complete lack of repetition.
(Thanks to writing this article, however, Monsieur Hood and his merry men saying “That’s bad, that’s bad, that’s bad, that’s bad” is seared onto my brain.)
Despite its intentionality and all the thought put into its lyrics, the “Merry Men” number is just “Welcome to Duloc, Part Two,” another jab at the existence of musical numbers in film at all. That’s a real shame.
The theming of “Shrek” is better than it needs to be, and I would argue the setting and character design are also better than they have any right to be, but “Merry Men” is, in contrast, woefully in line with the “not as good as I remembered” legacy of “Shrek.”
Micah Drake is a senior in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.