Tuesday, May 25, 2010


By: The Mad Hatter

SHREK FOREVER AFTER (also mercifully known as SHREK: THE FINAL CHAPTER) begins by introducing us to Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn). This little imp is known for duping unsuspecting patrons into sucker deals and has his eye on getting control of Far Far Away. He had King Harold and Queen Lillian (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) all primed and ready to swindle when Shrek found Princess Fiona.

That was the start of things for Shrek and Fiona (Mike Myers and Cameron Diaz) who have since added three little bundles of joy to their brood and like many new families, soon find themselves in a rut of feeding, changing, play dates, and time spent with the same old friends. It's enough to drive an ogre crazy, and it ultimately does. Shrek throws a temper tantrum during his triplets’ birthday party and storms off like an ogre.

It's around here that Rumpelstiltskin catches up with him and offers him one of his too-good-to-be-true deals. Shrek can go back to being an intimidating care-free ogre for a day. In exchange, 'Stiltskin will take a random day from Shrek's childhood. Doesn't sound so bad, does it?

Bad news for our smelly green hero: 'Stiltskin takes the day he was born. Thus, 'Stiltskin’s deal with Harold and Lillian comes to pass, and he swindles them out of their kingdom. Also Shrek and Fiona aren't married, he has no children, ogres are hunted within the kingdom, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) lives a life of servitude, Puss (Antonio Banderas) is fat and lazy. Essentially it's Bedford Falls with an imp playing Mr. Potter.

Shrek can undo it all, but he has a day to do so, otherwise . . . well . . . y'know.

More than one person has told me that it was all the pop culture references in the first Shrek movie that made it work so well. I've never bought that. I've always believed the fact that SHREK was based on a great story was what made that first film work so well. In many ways, it felt like the fairy tale that The Brothers Grimm forgot—a clever one that felt fresh in the face of all the animated sweetness we'd been handed for so many years.

Now, by this fourth entry in the series, we've all learned what happens when clever becomes complacent. It's bad enough that much of the winks and nods are ones we've already seen, but now they've all been grafted on to that same "what if?" story that we've seen far too many times. Even with that in mind, I still wanted to enjoy this Shrek offering a lot. But sadly the amount of times I laugh per film has been dwindling as the series has gone on. Now I'm only snickering at throwaway lines (Donkey to Gingerbread Man: "What you talkin' 'bout cracker?").

There is never a moment in SHREK FOREVER AFTER that you think things might not work out. Every new road block these characters encounter seems to come with instructions tacked to them on how they can be overcome. Ye, Far Far Away is still bright and beautiful, and yes, it's fun to hear the flute sample from The Beastie Boys' "Sure Shot" worked into a fairy tale. But that wasn't what made the first chapter work, and it certainly isn't enough anymore.

Then there's the continuing love affair with 3-D. While I loved what Dreamworks did with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, there wasn't a single detail of SHREK FOREVER AFTER I felt merited a 3-D experience. Thus, I opted for a 2-D screening. While I can see a moment or two where the 3-D might have been nifty, there wasn't a moment I thought I was missing out. Memo to Hollywood: We're over the novelty; you officially have to try harder. Don't believe me? Look at the opening weekend box office for this film.

Indeed, watching Shrek work through his midlife crisis is about as entertaining as listening to Big Bird consider mutual funds or sitting patiently while Goofy gets his biopsy results. ‘Stilskin might have been a fun character on his own, and Puss seems to own every line he is given, but ten years on I have officially grown bored of anything and everything that happens in Shrek's swamp.

Sorry Shrek my man. Next time try buying yourself a sportscar. Might make for a more entertaining movie.

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