Wednesday 12 December 2007

Shrek The Third (2007)

Wednesday 12 December 2007
Directors: Chris Miller & Raman Hui
Writers: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman & Jon Zack (story by J. David Stern, Joe Stillman & David N. Weiss, based on characters created by William Steig)

Voices: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), Antonio Banderas (Puss In Boots), Julie Andrews (Queen Lillian), John Cleese (King Harold), Rupert Everett (Prince Charming), Eric Idle (Merlin), Justin Timberlake (Arthur Pendragon), Conrad Vernon (Gingerbread Man/Rumpelstiltskin), Cody Cameron (Pinocchio), Larry King (Doris), Amy Poehler (Snow White), Maya Rudolph (Rapunzel), Amy Sedaris (Cinderella), Aron Warner (Big Bad Wolf), Cheti Oteri (Sleeping Beauty), Regis Philbin (Mabel), Ian McShane (Captain Hook), Susanne Blakeslee (Wicked Queen), John Krasinski (Sir Lancelot), Seth Rogen (Ship Captain) & Kari Wahlgren (Old Lady)

Following the death of King Harold, Shrek goes on quest to find a successor for the kingdom's throne...

' original Shrek was a subversive fairy tale adventure that proved to be the first computer-animation to provide real competition for Pixar. The sequel, Shrek 2, successfully expanded the storyline into new areas, while retaining the same sensibilities.

Both films aren't perfect as some would have you believe, with too many pop-culture references that will quickly date and a weird central message: that a beautiful princess can love an ugly ogre... ahem, not because she sees his inner beauty, but because she's an ugly ogre too...

Shrek The Third proves to be a misstep on many levels, but primarily because it's just not necessary and struggles to wrangle a story from the fallout of Shrek 2. Frog King Harold (John Cleese) croaks – pardon the pun – and with the throne of Far, Far Away empty, dashing villain Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) plots to become ruler of the kingdom, with the help of various fairy tale baddies...

Meanwhile, Shrek (Mike Myers) is next-in-line to the throne, but doesn't feel comfortable dressing regally and performing royal duties, so he heads off with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) to find another successor – bullied teenager Arthur (Justin Timberlake; as if it matters.)

There's also an undercurrent of parental responsibility, with Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) revealing she's pregnant and thus causing Shrek to have nightmares about unruly, vomiting, farting mini-ogres.

It all sounds great fun, and it's entertaining on a basic level, but it lacks the charm of the original and can't eclipse the first sequel. Too often, the film plays like a half-decent idea the writers just decided to run with, sprinkling in hit-and-miss gags as best they can and hoping the vocal talent of Myers, Murphy and Banderas will paper over any cracks.

However, the dialogue here isn't particularly memorable, and there are more reprises of old gags (like Puss's saucer-eyes) than fresh material. Oh, and the franchise's love of body-swap comedy returns-- for little point or hilarity -- when an errant spell makes Puss and Donkey exchange forms.

Technically, while Shrek The Third isn't a quantum leap in quality from Shrek 2, it's still a sumptuous visual experience. The variety of characters, costumes and realistic hairstyles are notable improvements, along with exterior shots that are approaching photorealism (check out the funeral fountain) and fire-effects that are indistinguishable from the real thing!

But, you expect computer-animations to look amazing these days, particularly in flagship franchises that cost their studio upwards of $160 million! It's almost a given, really...

Sadly, when it comes to the more important plot, characters and jokes, Shrek The Third is on shakier ground. I really liked the idea of Prince Charming taking over the kingdom with the help of Captain Hook (Ian McShane) and other fictional villains, but it's very underwhelming when it happens -- and the theatre-set finale is a damp squib when compared to Shrek 2's action spectacular.

On the positive side, while this is definitely the weakest entry in the Shrek saga (how do you waste Eric Idle as an eccentric Merlin?), it will entertain its target audience of young kids and isn't totally irredeemable for adults.

As I said, it's a visual feast and there are good moments sprinkled about (Pinocchio's interrogation, Fiona's hen party resistance cell), but because the previous outings set the bar so high... Shrek The Third is a crushing disappointment and quickly forgotten. Say the title in a Irish accent, and you have the best one-sentence review possible.

Shrek Goes Fourth is already being planned, needless to say...

Budget: $160 million
92 minutes