Sunday, May 23, 2010
Movie Review: Shrek Forever After
Four movies. Ten Years. A zillion laughs. A sea change.
All these phrases and more fit the Shrek franchise.
When Shrek opened in 2001, it was noted for the way it "stood traditional fairy tales on their head". It capitalized on elements of anti-establishment emotions and made a hero of the classical villain-figure.
In 2004 with Shrek II they expanded the characters and broadened the story lines.
The laughs in both were plenteous and the references to well-known tales and cliches easy, natural, and awesome. And the "filler", Shrek the Halls (2007) was classic.
Later, it turned out 2007 was a dark year. In Shrek the Third...or as I prefer to refer to it, Shrek the turd, they forgot what made the first two movies great.
They tried so hard to push a particular concept that they forgot a key part of the formula that worked so well in parts one in two...namely, that the jokes come as part of the story, not at the expense of the story.
Pushing jokes, "non-traditional" ideas and so forth led to it more closely resembling epic fail icon Happily N'Ever After (2006) than the first two members of the Shrek franchise. It was unfunny, unentertaining, and borderline unwatchable.
That was unfortunate, because it showed promise. It just never delivered...and the failure was so epic that the entire Arthurian legend portion of the add-ons was completely eliminated from what is supposed to be the closing number, Shrek Forever After.
The story is nothing super exciting or original...but that is not necessarily a complaint. There are only so many times you can "turn cliches on their head" before there are no cliches left to turn.
At its roots, the movie can be summed up in either of two ways; 1) Shrek (Mike Meyers) experiences a mid-life crisis and must learn how lucky he is or 2) "I did not know what I had until it was gone" as Shrek intones late in the movie.
The story revolves around a deal Shrek makes with the delightful Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohrn) who, along with his goose, are exactly the type of villain the first two Shreks had...you liked the villain nearly as much as Shrek. He was funny, entertaining, and a fitting counter-point.
There are many jokes, some nice one-liners, great animation, and a light but fun story. The "Do the roar" kid is outstanding.
They also do a nice job of drawing the story to a close. Shrek is no longer the feared, dangerous ogre....he has settled into life with wife, children, and friends...and he is happy about that. They conclude with a montage of some great moments for the series.
I have read several critics just blasting this flick for not being as fresh, original, or layered as the first one.
Maybe. But it is still very entertaining. We had a full theatre of people laughing from beginning to end and walked away satisfied. The bad taste from the third effort is gone and we can put it to bed with fond memories of this one.
Was it the best of the four? No...probably third best, but in a series like this...that is still pretty good.
And I saw it in just 2-d...really, it did not strike me as anything worth the extra premium for 3-d tickets. The animation looked spectacular, the jokes were every bit as funny, and this is a title that will end up on my shelf when it is released.
The Weasel is Full