31 May 2010

Review: "Shrek the Third"

I should have never watched Shrek the Third. It has tainted my appreciation of the first two films and I can only imagine what the fourth installment, Shrek Forever After (or is it Shrek the Final Chapter?), has done to the once proud franchise. Shrek, released in 2001, and Shrek 2, released in 2004, were full of energy and creativity. The third lacked both. The first two films grossed almost 1.5 billion dollars and it seems clear that the only reason a third (and then fourth) film were released was because of DreamWorks' desire to compete with Pixar financially. The films introduced Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy to a younger generation and also reignited adult interest in animated films. While the first two Shrek films had great animation and humour aimed at young kids, it also had clever innuendo for adults that kids could never understand. The third installment, which had none of the clever humour that had been a trademark of the franchise, featured only one returning writer from either of the first two films. Andrew Adamson, a New Zealand film director and producer, was given a story writing credit for Shrek 2 and is listed amongst the screenwriters for Shrek the Third. There was nothing about the film that I enjoyed and I often found myself wishing I had turned it off. Shrek the Third is a weak attempt to steal money from moviegoers and completely fails to recapture the wit and ingenuity that had made Shrek and Shrek 2 successful commercially as well as critically.

The film begins in Far Far Away where King Arthur (John Cleese) is dying. The next in line to the throne is his daughter, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and son-in-law, Shrek (Mike Myers). Shrek does not believe that an ogre for king is a good idea and insists that there must be someone more suitable for the job. Before he dies King Arthur reveals that there is another heir, his young nephew Arthur Pendragon (Justin Timberlake). Shrek sets sail to find the young Arthur with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) at his side. As the three sail off Fiona announces that she is pregnant, prompting Shrek to start having nightmares about his offspring. Shrek discovers that "Artie" is a scrawny sixteen year old boy that is constantly picked on. Artie, originally excited by his future role as king, joins Shrek on the return trip to Far Far Away. While Shrek is away Fiona is captured by Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) who wants to claim the throne for himself. Prince Charming has concocted a plan to kill Shrek because he believes that Shrek has stolen his happily ever after by becoming king. Meanwhile Puss in Boots and Donkey have become imprisoned alongside Fiona and Artie has run away after Prince Charming had changed his mind and decided not to kill him, after learning that he was going to become king. The ridiculous story finishes with an even more ridiculous conclusion that feels forced and poorly conceived.

The future of animation changed drastically when Pixar released Toy Story in 1995. Computer animated films entered the mainstream and Pixar had a sizable advantage over other studios. DreamWorks, with the release of the original Shrek, emerged as the sole competitor to the Pixar dynasty. But I have complained over and over again that DreamWorks is relying too heavily on producing sequels to its most successful films. Shrek the Third was a severe misstep and I wish I had not seen it. Any likelihood of me seeing Shrek Forever After died soon after I began viewing the third film. There is not much else for me to say. I was bored, I was annoyed and I was disappointed. Shrek the Third was a bad decision and a waste of time.

My rating: Zero stars.

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