Shrek Forever After
By this fourth entry, the cast of characters for “Shrek Forever After” are mostly old hat by now.
Of course, you have the titular cantankerous ogre (voice of Mike Myers) who has been domesticated into submission, his best bud Donkey (Eddie Murphy), feline friend Puss ‘n Boots (Antonio Banderas), and his blushing bride Fiona (Cameron Diaz). We all know them like the backs of our collective hands.
And after the wretched third installment, what more is there to say about Shrek?
Whatever it is, it’s told in fluent Capra, as among the many titles this film has had (“Shrek Goes Fourth”; The Jason-esque “Shrek: The Final Chapter”), we did not see perhaps the most apt moniker, “It’s a Wonderful Shrek.”
Because, given its narrative, that’s the best description for this film.
Basically, we revisit Shrek lamenting his “happily ever after,” which has left him a husband and father of three with a swamp that is also a Hollywood-like tourist attraction, leaving little time for the freedoms of his youth; you know, terrorizing villagers, fleeing from their pitchforks and torches, and wallowing in the various pools of muck and mire (or even hitting the john in peace).
Enter Rumplestiltskin, who we find out was on the verge of scoring the kingdom of Far, Far Away when Shrek rescued Fiona in the first film. Rumpie makes one of his patented deals with the ogre, giving him another day in the sun in exchange for one of Shrek’s earlier days.
Turns out he picked his first day, meaning Shrek was never born, and once his day of ogredom is over, he will vanish into nothingness.
Of course, other things were changed: Fiona has embraced her own inner green, becoming a revolutionary ogre warrior by night against the evil king (guess who?), Puss is Fiona’s flabby pet, and Donkey pulls around the king’s carriage.
But wait! The complication: True Love’s First Kiss will render the contract null and void, so Shrek just has to make Fiona kiss him to undo the whole mess.
So in other words, not the most original of setups. But after its disastrous predecessor, it would have been easy to coast through another film, and maybe in a sense that is the case, but we do see a little more of that old Shrek spirit here. The tables are turned just a bit on the ogre, as he finds himself in need of saving rather than being the hero himself.
The romance between husband and wife is a refreshing change in movies animated or not, and provides the film’s best moments. There are a few battles scenes that are neither special nor insulting, and the jokes elicit a few chuckles here and there, but certainly not the occasional guffaws we had the first couple of times around this block.
But the film does collapse in on itself to some degree. Without giving anything away (no one will ever call the “Shrek” narratives unpredictble anyway), but the ultimate story smacks of Patrick Duffy in the shower, if you catch my drift. If you don’t, never mind.
But there is some mild, relatively fun and harmless fun to be had, even if many of the characters (Gingerbread Man and Pinocchio in particular) who are being pushed aside to a degree to make room for the new characters.
But this is the rare step up for a franchise working in more than 3 films, a cozy, harmless time at the movies that won’t rock your world, but won’t exactly bore you to tears either.