Shrek Forever After (2010)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

             

Starring Voices of:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Jon Hamm, John Cleese, Craig Robinson, Walt Dohrn, Jane Lynch, Lake Bell, Kathy Griffin, Ryan Seacrest, Kristen Schaal, Mike Mitchell.
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Director:  Mike Mitchell
Rating:  PG
Running Time: 93 Mins.
Release Date:  May 21, 2010
DVD Release Date: TBD
Box Office: $183,229,453
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Pacific Data Images, DreamWorks Animation, and Paramount Pictures.

Written By:  Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke, with characters adapted from the book by William Steig.

“Do the roar!” — Butter Pants (Mike Mitchell).

Facing a mid-life ogre crisis and recoiling from domesticity, Shrek tries to find himself again in “Shrek Forever After”, the final installment in the 4-film “Shrek” franchise.  For those who loved the first two “Shrek” films, myself included, I can report that while #4 may be nowhere near as good as those first two classics, “Shrek Forever After” picks itself off the mat and brings the series to a solid, if not wholly original, close.

“Shrek Forever After” is a rehashing of the man’s mid-life crisis plotline.  Shrek is home with Fiona, his loving wife, and has three infant triplets to help take care of.  While Shrek loves his wife and kids, and the ever-present Donkey and Puss In Boots, the edge is gone.  Tour buses bring tourists by to see the once-frightening ogre home of Shrek and Fiona, and no one seems scared or intimidated by Shrek anymore.  As a matter of fact, Shrek is nothing if not downright neighborly and kind, something that starts to eat away at him when people start demanding more and more of him.

Amplifying the problem, its the triplets’ first birthday and a big party is planned.  Pulled one direction and then another, Shrek tries to hold it together.  During the party, Shrek is repeatedly antagonized by an annoying kid, apparently named Butter Pants, and the kid’s father.  Shrek eventually blows his lid and the inner ogre returns; much to the dismay of Fiona and everyone in attendance.  Disheartened by the turn of events, Shrek meets up with Rumpelstiltskin, a conjurer and con man, who convinces Shrek to “give a day to get a day.”  Specifically, Rumpelstiltskin will let Shrek be a fearsome ogre for one day if Shrek agrees to let Rumpelstiltskin take a day back from Shrek’s life.  When Rumpelstiltskin takes the day Shrek was born, a parallel universe is created where Far, Far Away is in shambles, Shrek and Fiona have never met, and Rumpelstiltskin is king.  Shrek has to figure out how to undo all he has done, reconnect with Fiona, and gain his life back.

I will freely admit that this premise seems a bit tired and assembly line in its construction.  Thankfully, screenwriters Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke apparently learned from their mistakes with “Shrek The Third.”  Rather than saddled with a slow moving, scene-to-scene plodding tone about it, “…Forever After”, at times, resembles the cut-quick humor and rapid-fire wit so prevalent in the first two films.

Coming from someone who found “Shrek The Third” a major disappointment as a film first, and a “Shrek” film second, “…Forever After” may seem and feel better than it truly is, as I would argue we haven’t really enjoyed these characters since May 2004 when “Shrek 2″ arrived.  Through simple voice work, the film seems and feels more fun than the last one, as Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas sound as if they had perpetual smiles on their faces the entire shoot.

Although the film shows signs of wear and tear and struggles with its 93 minute running time, this “Shrek” does have a pulse and rhythm about it, which keeps it from ever really bogging down.  Unlike “Shrek The Third”, which felt lazy and studio-mandated, there is a bit of an edge here, especially in another tremendous performance by Antonio Banderas as Puss In Boots, the cat who has, shall we say, let himself go a bit.

Mixing its trademark balance of humor for the kids and humor for the parents watching next to them, “Shrek Forever After” had me enjoying these characters and smiling with them again.  Suffice to say, “Shrek Forever After” finishes things off pretty well.  What is readily apparent however is that there is probably little to nothing else left in the tank for these characters.  So, while this film may not compare to the first two films, it will line up nicely on the shelf beside them.

Oh yeah.  It’s in 3-D.  Sigh.

The 3-D presentation is alright, but seems front-loaded at the beginning in terms of visual effect for the audience.  I was unable to discern any real reason as to why the film is in 3-D, except for the opportunity to have a higher ticket price and a bigger box office gross.  Honestly, I cannot imagine that if this film is playing in conventional 2-D somewhere, you are really going to miss all that much in seeing it in 2-D vs. 3-D.

Should I See It?

YES

Fans of “Shrek” and its universe of characters will be smiling and laughing all over again.

You are curious how it all wraps up, right?

There are elements of quick wit and snappy one-liners which provide plenty of humor for adults and lots of sight gags for the kids.  Most families will be thoroughly entertained by something in this film.

You were disappointed by “Shrek The Third”.

NO

Detractors will complain that this is another example of Hollywood milking one more tired idea for more and more money.  Oh probably.

The plot is nothing new and rather conveniently simple when you stop and think about it.  So, when compared to the originality of the first two films, this is sorely lacking.

If you have an issue with the new wave of 3-D films that serve no purpose being in 3-D, here’s the latest example.

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