Shrek Forever After Review
Imagine the dilemma at the DreamWorks Animation script meeting. The Studio wants a fourth Shrek film in order to squeeze the final few drops of swamp juice from the concept, but the swamp is dry. All the fairytale character gags were used up in the first and second movie of the series, then repeated in ‘Shrek the Third’ as they thought they might just get away with it but upon release most audiences were disappointed and the Box Office takings suffered. How on earth are they going to come up with a new plot that’ll put bums on seats just one more time? Oh, of course – how could they have been so stupid? An alternate reality! That’s what’s needed here, after all it worked for ‘Star Trek’. Problem solved! It can be billed as a homage to Frank Capra’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, which has been often copied over the years but seldom bettered.
So with the fourth in the series, entitled ‘Shrek Forever After’ we have our favourite green ogre with the Scottish accent, tiring of his role as the hen-pecked husband and frequent nappy changer. He’s bored with being liked and expected to perform his ogre’s roar upon command to entertain precocious children or to sign pitchforks for his doting fans. How he yearns for the good old days when he could terrify the locals with a sideways glance and the threat of eating a villager or two. Then one day it all comes to a head. Like a petulant film star he flounces off and meets up with one Rumpelstiltskin (voiced by Walt Dohrn), who offers him the chance to swap one day from his life for a day when he will be feared once more. Our verdant friend quickly signs the contract and is transported to a parallel world where nobody knows him, not even his old wise ass pal Donkey (who’s still rather annoying and voiced by Eddie Murphy) or Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Bandyarse – sorry, that should read Banderas) who has let himself go to seed and is more of a fat cat these days. Even his own wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), doesn’t know him and she’s more of an ogre warrior princess in this new order. Too late, Shrek realises that the day from his life that he has swapped is the day that he was born – so he’s living in a world where he does not exist (you keeping up here?) and the only thing that can nullify the contract with old Stiltskin is True Loves Kiss. Now, you knew that had to be it, didn’t you? So he sets out to woo his Fiona, one more time. Will he succeed? Will he also get back the Kingdom of Far, Far Away that the old King and Queen traded for the happiness of their daughter? Ah, my friends – would that I could tell you, but I’d hate to spoil anyone’s fun so you’re going to have to watch the movie to find out.
Well, they got around the storyline issue, but did they manage to stop the drain of voice talent that usually occurs in animation sequels? Yep, they sure did! Good old Mike Myers is back as Shrek with his whole troupe of strolling players as mentioned above. Even John Cleese and Julie Andrews return as the King and Queen. To be perfectly honest, it did rather sound as if there was a lack of enthusiasm among some of the voices, particularly Cameron Diaz. Maybe that was because, while the script was amusing, it wasn’t particularly laugh out loud funny and it was fourth time around. Certainly there’s enough here to keep you entertained, but I did find myself looking at my watch a couple of times.
The script continues its use of pop culture references and in the opening few minutes the baby belching and farting was of a level that would gladden the hearts of pre-teens everywhere. There are homages to other movies too, such as the moment where a nervous King and Queen are on a cart going through a witches trailer park, the Crones Nest, and one of the witches plays the first few opening bars of ‘Duelling Banjos’ from ‘Deliverance’. A nice touch.
There’s a change to the picture format for ‘Shrek Forever After’ in that the previous three films were in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, whereas with the latest entry our eyes are treated to the 2.35:1 width of the Cinemascope frame – Big Screen Stuff! The animation itself is superb and absolutely flawless, using the latest developments in CGI to full effect. But enough of this serious chat, this is really a kids film, as were the others, with the adults trying to hijack the show for their own amusement. There’s probably enough movement to keep younger children glued to the screen for the duration and this will hopefully provide some much needed respite for the grown-ups.
Compared to Shrek 1 and 2, this new outing gets close to being as good in parts but not the whole. The first Shrek was new and fresh, where we welcomed each fairytale character and the send up with open arms. With Shrek 2, there were still a few new characters to meet and the jokes still tickled the funny bone. Compared to Shrek 3, ‘Shrek Forever After’ is streets ahead – but that’s not really much of a compliment as the audience is only now overcoming the depression and coma induced by the third movie in the series.
‘Shrek Forever After’ is really meant to be where the story ends and it’s a pretty good effort to bow out on. Nothing lasts forever and, even with the best writers in Hollywood, the story was wearing thin. Despite the closure, there’s a nasty rumour going round that Puss-in-Boots will be appearing in his own movie in the not too distant future. That should put the cat among the pigeons – or some other contrived storyline.