During his fashioned-challenged teen years, Judge Clark Douglas was known as "Wuss-in-Boots."
Our reviews of Shrek The Third (published November 30th, 2007), Shrek The Third (HD DVD) (published December 6th, 2007), and Shrek: The Whole Story (Blu-Ray) (published December 15th, 2010) are also available.
The biggest comedy of the year!
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your golden extensions."
Facts of the Case
The king of Far Far Away (John Cleese, Fawlty Towers) is dying, and needs an heir. He wants his ogre son-in-law Shrek (Mike Myers, The Love Guru) to take over, but Shrek simply isn't up to the task. The king notes that a kid named Arthur (Justin Timberlake, Alpha Dog) would make an acceptable replacement, so Shrek, Donkey (Eddie Murphy, Meet Dave), and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas, The Legend of Zorro) take off to try and find him. However, before they leave, Shrek's wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz, What Happens in Vegas) informs her husband that she is pregnant with a batch of ogre babies, giving Shrek cause to experience something of a midlife crisis. Meanwhile, the snotty Prince Charming (Rupert Everett, Separate Lies) is planning a coup, and enlists the help of lots of fairy tale villains such as Captain Hook, the Wicked Witch, and Rumpelstiltskin.
Over the course of the film, loads of old characters show up…Pinocchio, the Three Little Pigs, the Gingerbread Man, the Big Bad Wolf, the Three Blind Mice, the Ugly Stepsisters, and so on. The film attempts to give every character at least one scene in the spotlight, which causes the movie to feel a bit schizophrenic. If that weren't enough, we've got plenty of new characters. Most notably, Fiona becomes friends with a group of princesses, including Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella, who behave as if they're in a PG-rated version of Sex in the City. The funniest addition to the cast is Merlin (Eric Idle, Monty Python and the Holy Grail), who offers a very new age brand of magic that is incredibly unhelpful. All of these eclectic characters will go to battle with each other, or at least make a lot of hip pop culture references.
Call me crazy, but I don't think the world really needed a third Shrek.
*insert thunderous silence here*
However, I do realize that the financial gains of Shrek and Shrek 2 essentially demanded that a third film be made, so I will not spend any more time in this review complaining about it. However, I do wonder how long a series like this can go before it becomes completely depleted of original ideas.
The original Shrek was a charming film, one that felt very fresh and funny at the time. It was irreverent, full of all sorts of then-funny pop culture references, featured wonderful characters, a sharp screenplay, and surprisingly, quite a lot of charm. Since then, a style that was once deliciously subversive has now become mundane and typical. Nearly every animated film since Shrek has been preoccupied with following the same technique, usually to a much lower degree of success. Even the second Shrek film failed to live up to it's predecessor, replacing story with even more pop culture references and (admittedly quite funny) throwaway gags.
Fortunately, the third film does manage to try to restore things like plot and character development to the series, but that causes yet another problem: the characters develop surprisingly boring personalities. In the original film, Shrek was a cranky ogre, Donkey was his obnoxious sidekick, and Fiona was a spoiled princess. Their personalities played off each other tremendously well, but as the series has progressed, everyone has mellowed out. Shrek is a nice guy/ogre. Fiona is a nice lady/ogre. Donkey is considerably less obnoxious. I'm sure their psychiatrist is thrilled, but this is a very disappointing thing for moviegoers. The characters simply aren't any fun to hang out with anymore, and don't really have anything interesting to do.
Despite suffering from the weight of trying to include too many major characters, the film retains a bit of the charm of the previous installments. The characters are still likable, even if they are nowhere near as funny as they used to be. Still, I couldn't avoid the sense that the characters were primarily surviving on the good graces built up in the first two films. Most of them don't really seem to have anywhere to go, and nearly everybody else is busy repeating material we've all ready seen. With the exception of Merlin, very little here feels fresh or unique. As usual, the technical aspects are top-notch, and the movie has a few neat visual touches…but really, this is essentially less of the same.
The hi-def transfer is solid enough, but not quite as dazzling as some of the animated films I've seen in Blu-ray (Ratatouille comes to mind). The image is just a bit flat, even though the visuals are quite sharp and detailed. Sound is solid, with a nice balance between all of the audio elements. As with the first two films, the song selections are hit and miss. Most of the supplements are hauled over from the original DVD release, but there are a few hi-def exclusives. A trivia track provides a blend of snarky jokes and standard trivia ("British actor Eric Idle voices the character of Merlin"). It's aimed at kids, and really isn't too informative. Picture-in-picture interactive storyboards? No thanks. Customizable character menus? No, I'll pass. The World of Shrek offers basic bio information on all of the characters. Meh.
Most of the old features are designed for youngsters. "Shrek's Guide to Parenthood" features parenting tips from several characters. "Meet the Cast" is self-explanatory. "Lost Scenes" offers storyboard pitches of scenes that were never filmed. "Tech of Shrek" is a ten-minute featurette about the animation. "Donkey Dance" is an insufferable thirty seconds of donkey dancing. "Big Green Goofs" offers animated sequences that went wrong. There are also three interactive games. Finally, there's a jukebox featuring trailers for other Dreamworks animation films. Kids may have fun digging through this stuff, but there's almost nothing of substance for older fans interested in how the film was crafted.
Three things I'd like to note before we adjourn today.
1. When is someone going to make a cinematic version of Bill Willingham's Fables? It's a wonderful series from Vertigo Comics that essentially does the same thing the Shrek films do, but far more effectively.
2. How on earth are they going to make the next film not feel like a horrible version of Yours, Mine and Ours? If that Christmas special was any indication, I don't want to know what is in store for these folks.
3. Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Eddie Murphy desperately need this franchise. Once upon a time, they were all bankable stars, but these days the box office hasn't been quite as kind to them. However, I would strongly suggest that all three stars make an active attempt to find other ways to boost their career. Shrek Goes Fourth will probably be a hit. Maybe Shrek Pleads the Fifth will be successful, too. But a single franchise can only go on for so long before people get tired of it (shut up, James Bond). If the Shrek continue to decrease in imagination as time goes by, that time may be just around the corner. Use all the king's horses and all the king's men to put this franchise back together again, or move on and leave it to die in peace.
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