By Brian Lafferty
May 22, 2010 (San Diego)--In 2001 Dreamworks released Shrek. Based on a children’s book, the movie was an inventive, clever, and witty satire of fairy tales. It was a huge hit and spawned three sequels, the last of which being Shrek Forever After.
“It’s a Wonderful Life turned upside down” describes the final entry in the series. Beginning where the previous film left off, Shrek finds himself facing the reality of parenthood. He’s now a celebrity to the point where tour buses pass by his home in the swamp. People idolize him to the point where he’s constantly asked to autograph their pitchforks.
He then meets Rumpelstiltskin, who makes him a very tempting offer: he can experience, for one day, life before he met Fiona. In exchange, he will give up any day from his life. Shrek happily agrees and for a while he’s once again a feared creature. Of course, things go sour. He finds himself being hunted by Wizard of Oz-type witches and learns to his horror that Rumpelstiltskin is King and that ogres are being hunted. The day he gave up happened to be the day he was born. He eventually discovers and joins an underground militia of ogres plotting a revolution. Their leader? None other than Fiona, whom he must win over once again or he will cease to exist, per the fine print in the contract.
Shrek Forever After is a dreary and depressing experience. In the first act, we have to endure a cacophony of poops, burps, and other bathroom humor sounds. Shrek is miserable and it is only a matter of time before we are, too. The first three movies were joyful and cheerful but this film contains darker overtones, which doesn’t sit well here. This isn’t helped by the look of the alternate reality, which contains perpetually dimly lit scenes and a darker and nearly colorless palette.
The first three Shrek movies worked because they didn’t repeat themselves. Shrek Forever After makes the fatal mistake of breaking this tradition. We know that Shrek and Fiona will fall in love again. We’ve seen this plotline in the first movie so why should we see it again? Perhaps because the writers started running out of ideas?
The film’s overly complex plot may be comprehensible and enjoyed by adults with understanding of history and film, but not so with kids. I have a six year old niece and a four year old nephew who are incredibly smart for their ages. However, I cannot see them, or many other kids, being able to understand the concept of ogres being persecuted and plotting a revolution to overthrow a tyrannical King.
I saw Shrek Forever After in 3D and I am sad to report that the 3D is not right for this movie. Much of the film either takes place at night or contains dimly lit interiors and exteriors. The image is crisp but the perpetual darkness diminishes the impact of the 3D. 3D is good for increasing image depth but the backgrounds in this movie are too dark to see for this to be effective.
The first two Shrek movies were masterpieces. I liked the third one, even though most people didn’t, but it showed signs of running out of steam. Shrek Forever After lacks the bite and much of the fairy tale spoofs, references, and jokes that made the first three so enjoyable. This final entry is, unfortunately, the type of fairy tale that the franchise satirized in the first place.
A Paramount Pictures release. Director: Mike Mitchell. Screenplay: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke, based on the book “Shrek!” by William Steig. Original Music: Harry Gregson-Williams. Cinematography: Yong Duk Jhun. Voice Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Jon Hamm, John Cleese, Walt Dohrn, Jane Lynch, Lake Bell, and Craig Robinson. Running Time: 93 minutes. Rated PG.