The DreamWorks animated movie ready reckoner

DreamWorks Animation has proven itself to be the only operation of its ilk to date to threaten the Disney/Pixar empire. But are its films any good? Let the ready reckoner find out...

Shrek: falling foul of threequelitus

Of all things, this particular piece has been inspired by stepping out of a screening of Pixar’s Wall-E. It’s not a classic, but it ably demonstrates just why Pixar is the leader in the world of computer animation. Because while DreamWorks (and PDI) make movies that satisfy the audience of today, Pixar appear to be far more reverential to the geniuses of yesteryear, which is why their films stand a better chance of enduring. Here’s the run-down of the DreamWorks roster, not including their latest, Kung Fu Panda...

HAND DRAWN

The Prince Of Egypt

4 out of 5

DreamWorks’ first animated film is damn-near a masterpiece, held back by a soppy song or two too many, and the slightly uneven pace of the storytelling. Yet this ambitious attempt to tell the story of Moses remains a benchmark for the company.

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The Road To El Dorado

3 out of 5

Very much an attempt to do a Disney film, right down to getting Elton John in to do the soundtrack, The Road To El Dorado actually is a bit better than you might expect. A good lead double act, witty script and some very well animated sequences mean it’s a film that remains one worthy of seeking out.

Spirit: Stallion Of The Cimarron

3 out of 5

As far as animated movies about horses go, Spirit isn’t bad. You still wonder what was going through their heads when they greenlighted it, though.

Sinbad: Legend Of The Seven Seas

2 out of 5

The film that killed hand-drawn animation at DreamWorks, primarily due to bad storytelling. Sold off the back of the star names on voicing duties, Sinbad simply fails to engage, and while the animation is good, it’s the script where Sinbad falls down.

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CGI

Antz

4 out of 5

Perhaps DreamWorks’ best computer animated film. It’s certainly got an edgy script at the core of it, and the casting of Woody Allen is just inspired. What’s more, it simply tells a good, three act story with a very strong cast to power it along. It lost out at the box office to Pixar’s A Bug’s Life, but it’s the better of the two films.

Shrek

4 out of 5

Lest we forget, the first Shrek movie was a hoot. A fairy tale that was a pastiche of lots of other fairy tales, the characterisation was terrific, the script was sharp, and there’s an awful lot of rewatch value, too. No matter how diluted the sequels became, the original is always worth cherishing in this case.

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Shrek 2

3 out of 5

There was a three year gap between computer animated movies for DreamWorks, and that was just enough time to squeeze Shrek 2 out. This time, the script was weaker, Puss In Boots was inspired and Eddie Murphy ably covers most of the cracks with some well voiced gags. But the law of diminishing sequel returns certainly applies…

Shark Tale

2 out of 5

A weak, almost cynical-feeling movie, that was set to have a sequel that was ultimately abandoned. It doesn’t come close to Pixar’s Finding Nemo, and in spite of some lively animation, it’s got the feel of a movie intended for nobody older than ten. That’s not a bad thing, but as a flick, it lacks any real kind of ambition about it.

Madagascar

3 out of 5

Not bad, this, but again, very unambitious outside of the animation itself. The central idea of animals stuck in a zoo trying to get to a far off place is fine, but this is a film where it feels like the merchandising was the priority. Sure, there are some fun lines, and it looks terrific, but it’s strictly mid-range fodder.

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Over The Hedge

4 out of 5

Much better. A more focused and better executed tale, and one that’s all the better for having William Shatner thrown into the middle of it. The animation is strong, too.

Shrek The Third

2 out of 5

The best and worst of DreamWorks’ and PDI’s computer animated movies can be found in the Shrek franchise. This one throws out the need for a good script altogether, and feels like it was constructed on an Excel spreadsheet. It looks glorious, but the film is hollow, Eddie Murphy is sidelined, and it doesn’t bode well for The Next Shrek in 2010.

Bee Movie

3 out of 5

Low key stuff, with a few neat ideas, but ultimately forgettable. It’s one that’ll keep the anklebiters happy, though.

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AARDMAN

DreamWorks had a three picture deal with Aardman, which brought them early success, but soon the box office returns faltered. Nonetheless, they remain three of the best films under the DreamWorks animation banner…

Chicken Run

4 out of 5

Nick Park reckons Chicken Run is perhaps a little too glossy, but we maintain it’s a hoot. Mel Gibson is on voicing duties for the American audience, but it’s a distinctly British film in feel, and has a terrific ending straight out of Papillon. A hoot.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

4 out of 5

Again, excellent stuff, even if it doesn’t quite measure up to some of the short films that preceded it. It beggars belief that films such as Shark Tale make lots of money in the States, while Wallace & Gromit struggled to make much of an impact. A cracking movie.

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Flushed Away

4 out of 5

Aardman do CGI, and the result is an underappreciated treat that keeps their style in tact. Poor box office returns killed the union between Aardman and DreamWorks, but this is as good a computer animated film that the firm has put out since the original Shrek.

Agree? Disagree? Head to the comments!

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