Movie #38: Shrek Forever After

I’m not quite sure why I watched this movie. I was a big fan of the original Shrek; I liked how it upended fairy tale conventions and made a monster into a hero. The satirical, contemporary jokes played really well in a storybook context. However, Shrek Forever After comes three whole movies later, after the overblown and unfunny Shrek the Third. I guess I just wanted to at least complete the set by viewing the last one, hoping that it might not be too bad. At first I was put off by reminders of the previous movie: Shrek was back living with his wife Fiona and their brood of ugly triplets (Yes, I know they’re supposed to be cute, but they so aren’t!). It’s obvious pretty soon that the story was going to be about how Shrek was feeling ennui about the routine of his life as a family man (which is odd since in the first movie all he seemed to want was his simple routine — I guess it was simpler as a bachelor). I wasn’t looking forward to an animated movie that was just a normal movie (in this case an adult dramedy about midlife crisis) in cartoon disguise (in this case using a fairy tale context). That’s the worst of both worlds. Thankfully there was a bit of magic thrown in to help. Rumpelstiltskin, the deal-making imp, overhears Shrek’s complaints (after he blew up at his own kids’ birthday party) and sees an opportunity to help himself. He grants Shrek a day as his former, scary, pre-settling-down ogre self in exchange for a single day taken out of Shrek’s childhood. Of course, the cost is always higher than it seems and Rumpelstiltskin takes the day of Shrek’s birth, thus eliminating him from existence. What follows is an epic variation on It’s A Wonderful Life where the twist in history turns the ogres into a rebel force (led by Fiona) fighting the tyranny of Rumpelstiltskin and his witches. In that wish-granted day, Shrek needs to find a way to break his contract in order to save his own life and restore everyone else’s. So despite a rather mundane set up, the writers were able to pull a fantastical story out of their hats. All the original cast reprise their roles, including Mike Meyers as Shrek (still with the accent), Cameron Diaz as Fiona (her voice never seemed to match the ogre version of Fiona), Eddie Murphy as Donkey (fewer good jokes this time, which is a pity), and Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots (really low brow humour to turn him into a fat kitty in this alternate timeline). Everyone does OK with the parts, but the script is mediocre (I think they’ve used all the good anachronistic fairy-tale jokes in the previous three movies) so it doesn’t really give anyone much challenge. There seems to be a lot more music this time, including a “Disco Inferno” ogre dance. Where the story goes will not be any kind of a surprise, but for a while it’s fun getting there. I enjoyed seeing another side of Fiona’s character (which always seemed a bit dull, even in the first movie). Overall, I don’t think they had any need to make this movie, but since it’s out there, it’s not entirely unenjoyable (3.5 out of 5).

38 down, 12 to go!

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