Those cool kids over at Gordon and the Whale asked me to guest write a review this week. With their permission I’m also re-posting it here. Check out their site, they are pretty much all that’s great in this world.
The last few weeks have ushered in the season of summer blockbusters. First we had the record-breaking opening of IRON MAN 2, then came ROBIN HOOD, and this weekend that giant green ogre we all love returns for what is billed as his final swan song. SHREK FOREVER AFTER is bound to join its predecessors in the history books, but is it worthy of all the accolades coming its way in the next few weeks? Of that I am not sure.
The film opens with a happy, yet bored, Shrek (Mike Myers) twiddling his thumbs in swamp suburbia with his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their newborn ogre babies. They have both relinquished their royal titles and abdicated the Far, Far Away throne, and now live a primarily quiet domestic existence in Shrek’s former bachelor pad. After a year of parenthood, household chores involving outhouse repair, and his life becoming anything but terrifying to the local townspeople, Shrek finally snaps during his triplets’ birthday party. He says some pretty harsh things to his friends, family, and most importantly his wife. He flees the party and runs into the meddling Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) who offers him the opportunity to relive one day being a “real ogre” in exchange for one day of Shrek’s.
Of course he signs the contract, but he quickly realizes Rumpel’s deals aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Before he knows it, Shrek is in an alternative Far, Far Away where Fiona was never rescued from the tower, his best friends Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) have no idea who he is, and Rumpel has taken over the kingdom from Fiona’s parents. Now he has 24 hours to fix the mess he created before he is stuck in this Far, Far Away forever.
The film sets out to retell the original SHREK from a different angle. What would have happened if Shrek had never been born? What sort of butterfly effect would that have had on the rest of the Shrekverse? It’s a fun question to ask, ripe with story possibilities, I just wish the writers had spent a little more time flushing out their answers. I’ve always found the SHREK films fun but rushed, and this one is no different. All the familiar characters were new because this alternative world had hardened them. We needed time to get to know the new Donkey and Fiona as they were rougher around the edges. Donkey is a hustler and Fiona is the leader of a merry band of ogres set on ending Rumpel’s reign, they have both been hardened by this new world. The only truly charming moment happens when Puss appears on screen as less-than-svelte. He is hilarious and adds the levity that is normally reserved for Donkey. I literally declared “Thank God” to my movie partner when Puss uttered his catch phrase: “Feed me…if you dare.” Yo Dreamworks, when do I get my PUSS IN BOOTS movie?
Shrek is one of the most identifiable and enjoyable characters in animation. His adventures have captivated children and adults alike for the past decade, and who honestly doesn’t anticipate a new installment of the franchise? SHREK FOREVER AFTER should not disappoint animation freaks, but it does leave a little to be desired in actual story. It is often muddled and even discounts the third SHREK almost entirely. But overall, this newest SHREK is worth the 90 minutes, at least to see Puss in Boots.
Original review (Gordon and the Whale)