‘Shrek’ is back a third time for more green
Rare is the third installment of a movie franchise that is the finest of the bunch. Yet that doesn’t prevent studios from making as many of them as they deem potentially profitable, and this summer is crowded with blockbuster trifectas that will likely open to loads of eager fans who want to know if the third time is indeed a charm.
The filmmakers behind ‘Shrek the Third’ seem to have followed the strategy of ‘Spider-Man 3.’ Rather than regurgitate the same formula, the ‘Shrek’ crew responsible have tried to bring a little depth to the story by revisiting and improving upon the principals while adding some delightful new characters.
The result’ While still nowhere near the wit, thrill and originality of recent animated ventures like ‘Cars,’ ‘Flushed Away,’ and ‘Monster House,’ ‘Shrek the Third’ feels refreshed and might be– especially for relieved parents– the most entertaining film of the franchise. (Nevertheless the film’s content is too mature for young children.)
Shrek (Mike Myers) finds himself in line to wear the crown of Far, Far Away now that father-in-law frog King Harold (John Cleese) has, literally, croaked. Not only does he feel unworthy, (‘I’m an ogre, I’m not cut out for this.’), our big green hero’s worry is further intensified by wife Fiona’s (Cameron Diaz) pregnancy announcement. Give the writers some credit, fatherhood and royalty ascension angst are generally not plot fodder in young people’s movies. So off Shrek goes to another land with pals Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas) to find Artie (Justin Timberlake), Fiona’s half-brother. Artie would qualify as next in line if he weren’t such a wimp at the very ‘O.C.’-like ‘Worcestershire’ high school.
The fun is amped up by the presence of a jealous Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) who, tiring of his struggling dinner theater career, rallies some fairy tale baddies (Captain Hook, Snow White’s wicked witch, Cyclops, etc.) to thwart Shrek’s efforts.
Yes, this third installment includes poop, belch, and vomit jokes that will make adults cringe and six-year-olds yelp, but several subtle shifts work in the film’s favor. Shrek himself is less irritatingly angry. (Has marriage softened the beast’) Donkey’s jokes are less grating, and the script allows Puss to steal even more scenes.
Particularly fun is the hippy druid Merlin (Eric Idle), who lends some clever Monty Python-esque new age shenanigans. Advances in technology and the filmmakers’ dedication to making the film look even better than previous installments lend a noticeable vibrancy to the film’s detail. Most of the musical elements work as well.
Those of us who never thought the ‘Shrek’ franchise was much more than pop culture derivation would be happy to see the whole thing end here. Alas, more installments and offshoots (including a Broadway musical, no doubt) are sure to come. But a one-time visit is more tolerable this go ’round.
Rated PG for some crude humor, suggestive content, and swashbuckling action.