Shrek Forever After Review

image copyright Dreamworks Animation
First of all, I should admit that I’ve never really been a Shrek devotee. I’ve never been able to get behind the Shrek series the same way I fell in love with other animated films like Finding Nemo or even Cars.

Maybe it’s just because its Dreamworks (who are perpetually coming in second to Pixar) or maybe it’s because Shrek isn’t cute. But I went to see them all in theaters anyway (I even own Shrek 2 on DVD), so I had to go see this one too – in 3D, naturally. It’s getting so that 2D is uncool.

If you’re coming into this review without a solid idea of what the film’s about or have somehow managed not to see the trailer 5,000 times while watching TV, here’s the gist of it:

Shrek, a family-ogre having a midlife crisis, is tricked into signing his life away by the mischievous Rumpelstiltskin and has to enlist the aid of his old pals Donkey, Puss in Boots, and Fiona (who now no longer know him) to get things back to the way they were.

If this sounds an awful lot like the plot of the second Shrek movie, where Shrek uses magic to fix his problems and ends up screwing everything up, you’re very perceptive. Because this movie is a lot like that, only less imaginative.

I went to Shrek Forever After as a group with the Girl Guides. The upshot of this is that I only had to pay $5 to see the 3D version instead of $14 (score!) and the downside is that I didn’t know we were going until the last second so I missed the first five minutes.

From what happened afterward I learned that Shrek (voice of Mike Meyers), a giant green ogre, is married to Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz), another giant green ogre who used to be a human princess, and has three little green babies. He has lot of friends, including Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas) and a donkey rather unimaginatively named Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy), and everyone loves him. This (for some reason) gives him cause for misery.

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

Oh, woe is me, my life is perfect. However will I cope??

We’re given to understand that he misses terrorizing people. So when he wanders off and meets Rumpelstiltskin (voice of Walt Dohrn) he hesitates for about two seconds before signing an “Ogre for a Day” contract that requires him to give up one day from his past (sort of like a spy vacation, but more sinister).

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

Imagine… a world ruled by ME!… I mean… whatever it was YOU wanted

Rumple is (of course) evil and the day he takes is the day Shrek was born, so ZAP! Shrek is suddenly in a world without Shrek where Rumpelstiltskin rules and Shrek’s only got till the end of the day to weasel his way out of the contract by kissing his true love (how original. Is this Rumpelstiltskin or Snow White?)

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

Just in case you haven’t clued in yet that bad things happened, we’ll make the letters fall down.

Anyway, from here the plot relies on the audience having seen the first three movies (or more importantly – the first movie) a little too much. Shrek is basically aiming for a repeat of his Fiona-rescuing exploits from the first movie (we’re expected to remember how Shrek rescued her from a dragon and how it comes about that the two of them ended up married) though the writers do throw in a few bones for the uninitiated and the forgetful.

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

So there’s this castle, right, and…. you can figure out the rest.

The only problem with Shrek’s genius plan is that Fiona’s now a cross between Xena: Warrior Princess and John Conner from the Terminator movies, living in a hole and launching guerrilla strikes against the enforcer-witches employed by Rumpelstiltskin to keep the population oppressed.

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

Though she and her Ogre Resistance haven’t yet learned the benefits of having ROOFS when dealing with flying enemies

Hijinks ensue,various fairy tale characters make cameos, and days are saved (naturally). Though the film is marketed as The Final Chapter of the Shrek series, you should probably know that there is nothing in this movie that suggests finality at all. The only way they could possibly end the series and shake the teat-sucking studio execs off would be to kill the entire cast.

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

And then Shrek gets sucked into a black hole and dies. THE END

But this is a kids’ movie, so of course that doesn’t happen. Shrek Forever After ends in a way that will not last forever and after you think you’re safe Dreamworks will be back asking you to spend more money to see Shrek 5. This will go on and on ad nauseum until Shrek becomes like another familiar children’s franchise.

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

As long as they don’t film real ogres and pretend they’re talking…

If the trend keeps going, however, Shrek 5 could be impersonated by a piece of plain white bread toast, because Shrek Forever After is the least creative, imaginative, clever, funny, and all those other good adjectives of the series. (Personally, I would rank them: 2, 1, 3, 4)

images copyright Dreamworks Animation

The Shrek series is known for its massive casts of fairy tale characters voiced by famous actors, with Shrek the Third being the biggest of all. Comparatively, Shrek Forever After feels downright small and the celebrity secondary roles (played by not-Justin-Timberlake-level “stars” like Jon Hamm, Craig Robinson, and Kathy Griffen) are limited to throwaway random ogres and witches.

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

Hey, I might look like a green-skinned retread of the guy from Small Soldiers, but inside I’m famous… ish

Perhaps this is due to the fact that the writing staff has shrunk dramatically. Most comedies are written by teams and polished several times by other teams, so it’s not unusual to have six or more credited writers. Shrek the Third, which was practically drowning in characters….

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

There’s the bus they had to bring them all in on back there…

…..had a mind boggling 13 credited writers, 1 for the story, 3 more for screenplay, and 8 extra contributing further tidbits. Shrek Forever After has a mere two writers (Josh Klausner and Darren Lamke). They tried to toss in a few extras here and there, but they’re almost always of characters we already know, like the gingerbread cookie….

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

…who’s going all gladiator on animal cookies (300 reference, maybe?)

…Pinnochio, and the three little pigs. When they added a new fairy tale character to the periperary, I was always left wondering: why is that there?

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

Random wierd goose… is it supposed to be laying golden eggs or something?

Overall, I guess they just couldn’t think of enough stuff to fill the whole movie. They certainly couldn’t think of enough jokes. I was sitting with 25 girls between the ages of 9 and 12 – the prime age to find movies like Shrek funny, and there was barely one giggle per 10 minutes of screen time. Compare that to Shrek 2, which made everyone I know fall out of their chairs, and it’s just not acceptable. That’s not to say that the film is without its funny moments though. It’s just that they all belong to a single character (who, BTW, is not Shrek). It’s Puss in Boots.

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

Fiona’s a warrior women now, but she takes time out to dress her talking cat in pink ribbons?

Puss has always been hilarious and awesome and adorable, but FAT Puss in Boots is those things magnified by 1,000. I was laughing for every one of Puss’s scenes, regardless of whether he was actually doing anything. I almost lost it when he couldn’t reach to lick his own back.

image copyright Dreamworks Animation

It reminds me of the bathing struggles of my own chubby fuzzball…

They should have disposed of the entire rest of the plot and just followed fat Puss trying to do stuff for an hour and a half. I’d pay to see that. Shrek Forever After doesn’t feel that long, though. At 93 minutes, it’s the same length as all the other Shrek movies, but the lack of subplots and the fact that the whole movie takes place in a single day make it seem barely longer than your average television drama episode. The major difference between Shrek Forever After and the cartoons you can watch for free on TV is that it’s in 3-D, and I barely noticed that aspect unless something was floating and/or jumping off the screen (i.e. not often).

Real D 3D Glasses by donbuciak on Flickr

Shrek Forever After: Now with free sunglasses that you can’t wear in the sun

So, bottom line, is Shrek Forever After worth the price of admission? Yes. Even if just for fat Puss in Boots, yes. It will also get your kid to shut up for an hour and a half, which is always a bonus, though perhaps they should have called it Shrek: Just Goin’ Through the Motions for all the innovation it brings to the series.

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