Fiona, Shrek and the baby ogres in Shrek the Third.
Shrek has lost his charm. The series, so once full of fun and mirth, is now a lackluster pile of ideas that never amount to much.
The third film finds Shrek inheriting his father in-laws throne, after he dies. Shrek wants nothing to do with responsibility so he races off, with Donkey and Puss-In-Boots, to find a distant relative who can rule in his place. They find Artie, a loser in highschool who gets picked on by the school jock, Lancelot. Meanwhile, Prince Charming, who is now an actor, stages a coup and takes over the kingdom of Far Far Away. With the help of other villainious fantasy creatures, he captures Fiona and the other princesses. With the help of Merlin, who has become a touchy-feely, self-help guru, Shrek and friends take Artie back and do battle with Charming.
One of the strongest things about Shrek 2 was that it introduced one of the best characters in the series, Puss. In this installment we get a young King Arthur voiced by Timberlake. The entire movie has him moping about in teen angst. James Dean he is not, and he provides few laughs. Merlin's part should have been increased.
One of the best staples of the Shrek movies are the catchy pop songs. Smashmouth's "You're an All-Star" helped greatly to introduce Shrek in the first movie. Here there are no songs worth remembering. The one recognizable song is completely out of place. During Fiona's father's funeral is the theme song to the James Bond movie, Live and Let Die.
Shrek the Third is about Shrek accepting responsibility and girl power, but where is the fun? Okay, okay so there are a few laughs to be found. The captured princesses was a good scene. A stressed Cinderella can't help but clean. Supporting characters like Pinochio and Gingerbread Man get a good scene or two. The real problem is that Shrek provides very little entertainment himself. He simply walks around the movie as everyone else seems to be doing something.
Shrek the Third comes across as if the writers too often seemed to not know where to go with the story. For example, the Princesses escape by having the Queen bash her head against a brick wall? The movie climaxes on a stage as Charming is starring in a play. Why Charming, all-of-a-sudden, wants to be an actor is never explained. The worst crime is the missed joke early on. In the scene where the King (still in frog form) dies, no one makes a joke about how he croaked.
Give Donkey more jokes.
My biggest disapointment was the lack of jokes for Donkey, my favorite character in the series. He doesn't even get to say his line about how he needs a hug. The bit where he switches bodies with Puss never really goes anywhere either.
Overall though, I have to say, I seemed to have enjoyed this movie a bit more than Eric, but perhaps that's because I had lower expectations going in after reading his review. It isn't so much that the charm is gone, but the spark certainly has.
There are still laughs to be found, but they are definitely scarcer than in previous installments.
The supporting characters do provide some of the best laughs. I loved when the Gingerbread Man's life passed before his eyes and his reaction when scared near the end of the film is priceless. And also, as Eric mentioned, the princesses, particularly Snow White, are worth a laugh or two.
As for Charming wanting to be an actor, I thought that was perfectly obvious. The movie opens with him working in Dinner Theater where no one pays any attention to him. It's natural then that when he comes to power he wants to put on a show where everyone has to pay attention to him.
A couple of years back Disney seemed to be putting out a bunch of straight to DVD sequels to its old cartoons. That's what Shrek the Third feels like; an inferior straight-to-DVD sequel that somehow ended up on the big screen.
Yeah this one’s not nearly as good as the first two. Eric, you summed it up best when you asked where the fun was. The mood is far too serious, the double-edged humor in many of the jokes has turned cynical and the pacing is sluggish. Not that there aren’t a few funny lines to be had. I enjoyed Donkey’s rather brief rendition of “Cat’s in the Cradle” and I chuckled when Puss comforts Shrek with, “What I’m talking about is me and you, my cousin’s boat, an ice cold pitcher of mojitos and two weeks of nothing but fishing.”
Scott, as a huge Monty Python fan I’m surprised you didn’t mention Eric Idle as Merlin. His delivery is hilarious. It’s too bad his part is so small since he was the most entertaining of the new characters. Eric, I agree with you about Timberlake. He is adequate but brings nothing memorable to the series. But then wasn’t he dating Cameron Diaz at the time?
Eric you mentioned the two themes. Shrek facing fatherhood and Princess Power. Of the two the second one works best.
The scene right before they break out of the castle where Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty “assume the position” as damsels in distress succinctly says so much about the portrayal of females in movies. And their attack on the castle to the thumping beat and searing guitar of Heart’s “Barracuda” is by far the best use of a song.
Shrek coming to terms with parental responsibility, on the other hand, comes across as corny and contrived in a way that neither of the other movies did. I mean this is a fairy tale not a miniseries. And speaking of fatherhood was anyone else at all disturbed by Donkey and his dragon wife’s offspring?
Photos © Copyright DreamWorks (2007)