Movie Review: Shrek Forever After
By Matthew Huntley
May 25, 2010
The Shrek franchise started running out of gas as early as Shrek 2, but how could DreamWorks resist more sequels when there was so much money to be made? Now, it seems, the studio has finally taken a hint and promised Shrek Forever After will be the “Final Chapter” of this once groundbreaking saga. They agree it’s time to bid farewell to everybody’s favorite green ogre. Well, it’s about time.
Unfortunately, the fourth installment doesn’t end the series on a high note, but more of an ordinary one. It’s not bad, mind you, and there are moments in Shrek Forever After that are mildly funny and original, but the movie is mostly lackluster and bittersweet. I understand the need to give Shrek and pals a royal sendoff, but in the three years since the much-maligned Shrek the Third came out, is this the best they could come up with?
What did they come up with? For starters, the plot is recycled from countless other movies, namely It’s a Wonderful Life, as Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) becomes overwhelmed by the pressures of marriage, fatherhood and enduring the same old routine day in and day out. He longs for the days when he was a free-wheeling bachelor - friendless and free of responsibility - and villagers were scared of him. Now they ask him to do his roar because it makes them laugh and cheer. His wife, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), says he’s the only one who doesn’t realize he has it all.
Along comes Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who offers Shrek a magical contract to take any day from his life and replace it with one where he gets to be single and free again. Shrek thinks it will be a temporary reprieve, but little does he know that Stiltskin is setting him up and exacting revenge from a long time ago, back when the King and Queen of Far Far Away (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) almost signed over their kingdom in exchange for Stiltskin ending Princess Fiona’s ogre-human dilemma. Everything was going to plan until Shrek rescued the princess with true love’s kiss.
So Shrek signs the contract and enters an alternate reality where Stiltskin rules the land, ogres are hunted, Fiona is a warrior, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is as clueless as ever, and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is fat and lazy. As before, only true love’s kiss can restore things back to normal, which gives Shrek just enough time to realize the value of what he had before he lost it.
Clearly, the screenplay is trite and lackadaisical, but this probably won’t bother younger viewers all that much. In fact, there were moments in Shrek Ever After that had me laughing and smiling, thanks mostly to the ever-charming Donkey and Puss in Boots, and I did enjoy some of the zippy sight gags, including when Shrek out-flies a gang of witches and the Pied Piper forces all the ogres to dance in unison.
But there’s not enough to get excited about this time around. The Shrek series has run its course and the theme of lampooning classic fairy tales has lost its zest. Fortunately, the movie refrains from making overt pop-culture references, so at least we don’t walk out of the theater feeling annoyed or rolling our eyes. It simply takes the franchise as far as it will go and I’m guessing most audiences will feel apathetic watching Shrek Forever After. It’s a bittersweet, albeit disappointing, conclusion to a series that at one point felt so fresh and cutting edge. But that feeling has passed and it’s time to move on.