Shrek the Third (2007) / Animation-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for crude humor, suggestive content, and violence
Running time: 92 min.
Cast (voices): Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, Julie Andrews, Eric Idle, John Cleese, Larry King, Susan Blakeslee, Cody Cameron, Ian McShane, Cheri Oteri, Regis Philbin, Amy Poehler, Seth Rogen, Maya Rudolph, Amy Sedaris
Director: Chris Miller, Raman Hui
Screenplay: Jeffery Price, Peter S. Seaman, Jon Zack
The song at the end of Shrek the Third has Donkey and Puss-in-Boots, who found themselves swapping bodies at some point in the film, covering the Sly and the Family Stone classic, "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)". While the song is probably referring to them getting their old bodies back, I think one can also read into it as being a message to everyone watching this third outing -- it's a film made in acknowledgement and appreciation of the fans that expect and want more of the same.
At this stage of the series, it should already be decided whether you're a Shrek fan or whether you're not. If you are a rabid fan, chances are you'll enjoy Shrek the Third for its continuation of the lives of the characters you've come to love, and to introduce new ones to the mix. If you're still at a loss as to what makes the movies so popular, you're not likely to find anything in this third film to clue you in -- in fact, it may give you a headache. If you're somewhere in between, i.e., someone who kinda, sorta likes the films rather than loves them, you'll probably find this one to be only sporadically amusing, but will also think that tedium is now going to be an ingrained part of the series. My personal take: it's fun, and worth seeing, but for future entries, let's hope they find the creative shrewdness to trim the fat and start a fresher approach, rather than trot out the formula yet again.
This entry has the King Harold (Cleese, Complete Guide to Guys) croaking, leaving Shrek (Myers, Shrek 2) as the heir to the kingdom of Far Far Away -- an honor that Shrek seems to think not so good a thing. He does have the option of passing the crown to the one other heir out there, a young man by the name of Arthur (Timberlake, Edison), but when Shrek finds the lad, he is far from ready for any such responsibility. Meanwhile, a new tidbit of information begins to weigh heavily on Shrek's mind, as his wife Fiona (Diaz, The Holiday) announces her pregnancy. With Shrek out of the way, Prince Charming (Everett, The Chronicles of Narnia) decides it's time to try to usurp the kingdom for himself.
Shrek the Third is perhaps the most subdued of the trilogy, and the softest, probably in keeping with the sentimental vibe brought forth through the injection of family values to the series now that ogre babies are on the way. Also dying down are the constant barrage of in-jokes that permeated the previous two films, though they are not completely gone. I believe this is a symptom of the cannibalistic nature of the series at this point -- they will have to refer to other films less because they have to refer to previous Shrek entries more.
Despite the lessening of madcap energy, Shrek the Third is still quite funny in parts, with some fresh throwaway gags to produce chuckles now and then from characters you'd think they probably should have jettisoned long ago, but are secretly glad they've kept around (the Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio, etc.) The fact that they are keeping in nearly all of the characters introduced in the series thus far is a bit of a double-edged sword, as they do provide a certain respite from the main characters that are already cycling through the same jokes all over again, but on the other hand, it's getting to the point that the high overhead of injecting scenes for all of these characters takes away from the focus of the story at large.
While I find Shrek the Third to be entertaining enough to give it a pass in this regard, I fear for the future of the series, as now they've gotten even further away from the Grimm Fairy Tales/Disney world that the previous films spoofed, opening up the series to legendary characters and other tales of adventure. Pirates, knights, characters from Arthurian legends, and allusions to The Wizard of Oz are now deemed fine as far as fodder for the series to dip inspiration from, and it's getting mighty crowded on the screen.
It's occurred to me that the Shrek movies are now becoming similar to Mike Myers' other popular series, Austin Powers, in that the main character's ability to entertain is almost nonexistent anymore. Just like the Powers sequels kept introducing more and more characters by which to entertain us, so too have the Shrek sequels. Let's face it, there are only so many ogre jokes one can really do, and when you have a docile ogre like Shrek, who has lost all of his ability to appear menacing, even trotting out an old ogre joke is out of the question. One wonders what might have happened if Shrek had decided to take up the king's crown and rule the land, rather than just try to be the same old ogre he has always been -- perhaps it would have produced the creative spark the series needed to stay fresh. Alas, it's not to be.
Shrek the Third probably marks the dividing line between whether you are watching because you are a die-hard fan or you are just looking viewing the film for escapist entertainment. Certainly, the film has its merits, and it's fun to see the characters interacting with one another once again on a brand new adventure, but the thought of a fourth Shrek film doesn't really give me any goose bumps, especially now that the main characters are no longer growing in maturity or interesting developments, leaving the side characters the burden of providing almost all of the humor. By the way, I don't consider the addition of ogre babies to be an interesting development. In fact, I hate them already. It's not enough to have just one baby, but you have to have multiples -- probably for the purpose of selling more toys and merchandise (can't have just one Shrek baby, can you?)
At this point in the series, I believe the creators have painted themselves into a corner by not going a different direction for this third entry. We now expect that the next film is going to not deviate from the standard formula set about by the previous entries. Sure, they could go into a different direction, but I believe only series fans will stick around any further, so it's damned if they do and damned if they don't. Any major changes will be seen as desperation, and no deviance from the norm will bore most everyone to tears. A Puss in Boots spin-off possibility has been rumored, but I suspect this won't answer the problem for the main series at hand (at the time of this writing, the next entry is slated for 2010).
Shrek the Third ends on a very appropriate note: Shrek takes a long overdue night of sleep. It's a fitting way to end a movie that now appears to be tapped out of creative and comic energy. While Shrek the Third might be enjoyable enough for one more go around, if the fourth film continues this regurgitating trend, it might have us wishing he'll take a dirt nap.
©2007 Vince Leo