Sunday, 27 June 2010

Shrek Forever After: An Apology?

Shrek was, in his day, something of a pioneer. He showed the movie-related universe that Pixar were not the only ones who could knock out an entertaining CG-animated comic adventure that all the family could enjoy on their own level. With spirited digs at Disney and fairy tales in general, and featuring some high-tempo freestyling from Eddie Murphy as Donkey, the original Shrek remains an amusing an entertaining romp; but it has left us with a terrible legacy.

After the vim and vigour of the first installment, the sequels quickly descended into pop-culture reference-fests, repetitive in-jokery and celebrity stunt-casting; generally placing irritating smugness above actual comedy. The matinees became swamped with sub-par Shrek-wannabes, lining up their cast of celebrity-voiced comedy-sidekicks and clamouring for a slice of the big-money box-office pie.

Now, watch out, "Space Chimps", cos the big, green money-making machine is back! But not necessarily making that much money any more, according to the American box-office figures.

"Shrek Forever After" relays the tale of Shrek being turfed into a parallel universe where he never existed and a fella named Rumpelstiltskin has taken over the land. It's kind of like an animated "It's a Wonderful Life", or that episode of "Buffy" where Cordelia wishes that Buffy never came to Sunnydale and it comes true and then she gets her neck bit and Willow and Xander are vampires and Buffy has a cool scar. That was a good episode.

Anyway, if you've seen a Shrek film before, you pretty much know what to expect: Mike Myers does a shaky Scottish accent, Cameron Diaz doesn't do much, and Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas get most of the laughs. Where this film differs from the previous two sequels is in the tone of the film and the flavour of the comedy. The pop-culture references and spoofery are mostly gone, replaced by a much more laid-back, largely character-based gag quota, and the story stirs some admirably challenging themes - such as aging, responsibility and sacrifice - into the mix.

There are a few entertaining set-pieces, the animation is as vibrant and colourful as ever, and the film doesn't outstay its welcome. The ending does feel a little rushed, however, with the climax suffering slightly from "Is-that-it?" syndrome, and the whole exercise is little more than an afterthought for the series; almost an apology for the previous two sequels. It is an apology I am willing to accept, for now, but I'd be very surprised if this film isn't buried by Toy Story 3 in the coming weeks.

Did that seem like a short review? Feels like I should've said more, but there really isn't any more to say. Shrek 4: Better than 2 and 3, but not as good as 1. It's alright.


  1. I stopped watching these films after the first one - not because I didn't love the first one, but because I refuse to let studios get my money that easily. It's just so cheap to me. Same characters, same gags, same, same, same.

    If the studio is doing a series (e.g. Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Jason Bourne, etc) that's one thing. That's a continuation, not a re-do. Anywho, that's my two cents. I had no inclination towards seeing this film and I certainly won't now.

  2. I concur.

    However, for me, they really should have stopped at Shrek 1.

  3. Tyrie: This is the first one that doesn't seem like a tired re-hash, but it's still pretty irrelevant.

    Margg: I concur with your concurrence. One was plenty of Shrek for me.