Shrek the Third
Director : Co- Raman Hui
Screenplay : Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, Chris Miller and Aron Warner (story by Andrew Adamson; based on the book by William Steig)
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 2007
Here's the fundamental problem with Shrek the Third: the first two Shrek films covered just about every hilarious to mildly amusing joke involving fairy tales imaginable, leaving the inevitable third entry with little to do but rehash old gags and try to stretch the previous films' satire a little further. It's telling that Shrek the Third introduces only a few new characters, all of whom are instantly forgettable, and its satirical targets have sunk to a medieval high school where all the teens' nasally Valley speak is peppered with “thou” and “ye.” Not very promising.
The story picks up with the still inexplicably Scottish-accented ogre Shrek (Mike Myers) and his ogre wife Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) temporarily installed as the king and queen of Far Far Away (in what has become the most grating characteristic of the Shrek movies, Shrek's unsuitability as king is displayed in a lazy montage of jokes set to a prefab pop song). This doesn't sit too well with Prince Charming (Rupert Evertt), he of the generic good looks and air-blown coiffure, who feels that he should be king, instead of the second-rate bad dinner theater actor he has become. So, what's a prince to do but round up all the fairy tale villains, from Captain Hook (Ian McShane), to the Evil Queen (Susan Blakeslee), to a pair of evil trees (Andrew Birch and Christopher Knights), all of whom apparently hang out at the same tavern.
Meanwhile, Shrek doesn't want to be king, so he sets out to find an alternative heir, who turns out to be a teenage version of King Arthur named Artie (Justin Timberlake). Artie is not exactly royal material; in fact, he is the class geek, which allows the film to indulge in the rehashing of its standby “important theme” about not judging books by their covers. Unfortunately, most of Shrek the Third is all surface with little to dig into, the very epitome of a movie that you can judge by its cover.
Even usually reliable recurring characters have started to get stale, including Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas). In a desperate attempt to inject some new life, the team of screenwriters concoct a scheme involving the senile wizard Merlin (Eric Idle) causing the two animals to switch bodies, which does little except produce one funny scene in which Puss (now in Donkey's body) attempts to do his disarming saucer-eye look with disastrous results. And, on a side note, Donkey's relationship with the female dragon from the first movie is an excellent example of how an abstract joke (a goofy donkey romantically involved with a massive, fire-breathing dragon) can become disturbing when taken too far, which Shrek the Third does by giving us four donkey-dragon toddlers that are meant to be funny-cute, but are just downright creepy.
The film has some fun with the prospect of Shrek becoming a father, including a nightmare sequence involving projectile vomit that makes the pea soup in The Exorcist (1973) look like a dribble. Shrek just wants to move back to his swamp with Fiona and be alone, and the idea of having a baby forces him to not only face new maturity, but also added responsibilities. But, here again, even though the fatherhood storyline finishes off a three-movie character arc of sorts in which Shrek goes from being a loner, to a husband, to a father, we've seen his battles with the need to clean up his act before (does an ogre ever clean up his act?), which makes Shrek the Third play like warmed-up leftovers.
The animation is, of course, outstanding, with an ever-increasing level of photorealism that still has the ability to amaze. However, it doesn't speak well of the film's story or level of involvement that I found myself more fascinated by the fact that the animators had taken the time and energy to add fabric pills to the texture of Shrek's tunic than I was in the film itself.
Copyright ©2007 James Kendrick
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All images copyright ©2007 DreamWorks Animation