'Shrek Forever After' ends happily ever after ... we hope
Fourth time is a somewhat tired charm in the latest installment of the "Shrek" franchise, "Shrek Forever After," writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald.
Seattle Times movie critic
'Shrek Forever After,' with the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Walt Dohrn, Julie Andrews, John Cleese. Directed by Mike Mitchell, from a screenplay by Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke, based on the book by William Stieg. 93 minutes. Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language. Several theaters.
"Shrek the Third," a few years back, seemed to signal the end of a very lucrative animated franchise: Though not without some good laughs, the third movie had clearly run out of steam, recycling old gags and coasting through scenes that simply weren't funny. By its end, Shrek the ogre (voiced by Mike Myers) was perfectly content with his lot, with his true love Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and his faithful friend Donkey (Eddie Murphy) by his side. I would have bet money that the "Shrek" machine had lumbered to a permanent halt, and rightly so.
But money, it appears, is precisely what brings us "Shrek Forever After" — that, and the chance to play with animated 3D. So here we are, back in Far Far Away, with Shrek and Fiona and Donkey and no story, as there's no particular reason for us to be here. Instead, screenwriters Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke cheerfully recycle the first movie, creating a mini-midlife crisis for Shrek and zipping him back in time (with the help of a new villain, Rumpelstiltskin, voiced by Walt Dohrn) so that he can meet Fiona again and transform her, again, via love's first kiss.
All of this would be extremely irritating, and easy to dismiss as cynical manipulation of the moviegoing public — except for the fact that even recycled "Shrek" is still pretty funny, and that kids will thoroughly enjoy it. (My young guest found it great fun, particularly the 3D glasses.) Even grown-ups may have trouble resisting Antonio Banderas' suave-voiced Puss in Boots, who's having a little weight problem this time around ("That's a whole lot of kitty!" shrieks Donkey), or the Three Little Pigs' German accents, or the witches who all seem to have watched "The Wizard of Oz" more than once ("What a world! What a world!" moans one as she dissolves, in her best Wicked Witch of the West voice).
The 3D effects are subtle but nicely done, with horses galloping off the screen and broom-riding villains zooming about. But "Shrek Forever After" squeaks by (like those pigs) on the strength of its wit, and on the fact that Murphy bellowing out the song "Tomorrow" is, for reasons I can't entirely explain, always funny. The movie almost justifies its existence, if you ignore the fact that it ends up pretty much exactly where the last movie ended up (resulting in a weird sort of déjà vu in which you wonder if you've really seen a movie, or just had a popcorn-assisted hallucination). But you could have just as much fun staying home and watching the first movie again. Should a fifth movie arise, that's where I'll be.
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