“Shrek Forever After”
Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy
Directed by Mike Mitchell
Once upon a time, in the land of make-believe, there was a popular film series about a big green ogre that took one too many trips to the well. That, of course, would be the “Shrek” series, which should have thrown in the towel after the third chapter, 2007’s uninspired “Shrek the Third,” got savaged by critics. But after it made a nice chunk of change at the box office, nearly $800 million worldwide, a fourth trip to that proverbial well was a foregone conclusion.
That brings us to “Shrek Forever After,” which, according to all the pre-release advertising, really, really is the last film in the series. That will probably change faster than you can say “another $800 million worldwide,” which it should easily top, since it’s being released in 3-D, where ticket prices are a few dollars more expensive than they are for conventional 2-D releases.
In this case, it’s worth it, which is more than I could say about the last movie. It definitely represents something of a creative rebound, albeit a small one, since it’s still a long way off from the smart, clever and quick-witted brilliance of 2001’s fractured fairy tale, “Shrek,” and it’s worthy follow-up from 2004, “Shrek 2.”
The latest outing finds Shrek (Mike Myers), Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their three bundles of joy in the throes of domestic bliss in the magical land of Far Far Away. At least, that’s what it should be, but Shrek is too overwhelmed by the demands of family life to realize how good he has it. He misses the good old — or rather, good ogre — days, when he had all the time in the world to take long mud baths and scare trespassers away from his swamp.
So when a mysterious stranger named Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) dangles a contract in front of him that will restore his independence, he jumps at the chance to sign it without thinking twice about the consequences. Within seconds, Shrek is transported to an alternate universe where he never existed, and he finds that Fiona and the rest of his friends aren’t doing so well without him.
The kingdom of Far Far Away is now in tatters under the ruthless control of King Rumpelstiltskin. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is a slave to two witches, Puss (Antonio Banderas) has become too fat to fit into his own boots and Fiona is about to lead a band of rebel ogres in a fight against the king. Shrek can reverse the process by getting a kiss from his “one true love,” but he has just one day to do so, or he will disappear forever.
So basically, it’s “Shrek” meets “It’s a Wonderful Life.” At least, that’s what screenwriters Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke had in mind, even if it ultimately lacks the sharp intellect and imaginative spirit that defined the first two movies. It’s also noticeably darker and more violent than the previous entries, but director Mike Mitchell keeps the 90-minute romp moving along at a lively pace, and kids will be entertained by all the slapstick and colorful highjinks (especially in 3-D).
The novelty may have worn off, but “Shrek Forever After” gets better as it goes along, and it has its moments. Most of those come from Antonio Banderas, who steals the show as the swashbuckling Puss in Boots. So if this is indeed the last chapter, at least the “Shrek” series will go out with enough of a bang rather than a whimper, and everyone can finally live happily ever after.
Verdict: SEE IT!
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