Oh my, Shrek has changed. He's not funny anymore. I remember the time when the first Shrek film
came out. I couldn't stop making Shrek references and Donkey imitations for quite some time. The second
was more of the same, but it was a nice diversion, if not the best thing out there. The third, though, is a little… well, it's not terrible, but sort of slow, weak and not very funny.
The animation is top-notch, really, with all of Dreamworks' newly found bells and whistles in full display, and the voice actors seem to be having as good a time as they were the first time mouthing those goofy dialogs, but there's a feeling of déjà vu, a feeling that this is not a film made for a better quality of filmmaking, but to dole out more of the same and make those cash registers ring.
Simply put, the formula that they keep repeating here seems like it is getting worn now, and the overuse of certain clichés is jarring. The poo gags are aplenty, and enough for the little kids to have their fun, but the adults might not find this one as funny as the others. For someone like me, who has been a fan of the first, this one comes as a rude shock.
It's not all that bad, as there are some steps that the filmmakers take to take the franchise forward. For one, this one has more of a story than the second. The kingdom of Far, Far Away needs a new king after the frog king (John Cleese) croaks, and Shrek (Mike Myers), next in line, does not want the job. His only hope is to give the throne to Arthur (Justin Timberlake), a surly, reluctant high school student. Off goes Shrek with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) to look for ‘Artie'.
Meanwhile, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) joins forces with an assortment of fairytale baddies to invade Far, Far Away and imprison a pregnant Fiona (Cameron Diaz). Fiona is staying with her fairytale friends (including Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White), and all of them must fight back to repel Charming and his horde.
The problem with the story is that, crammed within 90 minutes of runtime, the film needs to explain quite a bit along the way, where instead of kid-friendly gags, we get a lot of expository dialog, a virtual anathema for an animation
film. Don't get me wrong, the look of the film is amazing, it's just that talky heads is not what the tots came here to watch.
There are witty dialog bits peppered throughout the film, and the backgrounds have some in jokes and gags, along with the general fairytale pun and fun stuff that every Shrek film has. But this time, it all feels formulaic and shopworn. This felt like something that we have seen before, making the shine of the comedy obscure beneath all that mediocrity.
At least the actors are consistent. Myers and Diaz have grown familiar with their characters, and though consistent, they don't add anything to the film. Without question the best lines, and the entire film, belongs to the two animals voiced by Murphy and Banderas, and Fiona's gal pals. As an aside, might I mention that ‘Gingey', the gingerbread man, is my fave from the series by a long shot?
Though you would expect a film being written by seven screenplay writers to have better quality lines for their protagonists and more stuff to do for a strong supporting cast. After Andrew Adamson, the director of the first two films, left the franchise, Chris Miller, the writer on the first two Shreks, stepped in. It seems like he wanted his turn at the megaphone to spell megabucks, and ‘fun' be damned. Even the impressive action adventure moments from the first two films have not been matched, and make way for another tired poo joke.
Maybe it's a little harsh to call this third helping tired, but there are moments in the film that are rescued by only the stunning animation work. At the best of times, the off-the-hook Shrek charm is still there, and Donkey and Puss are a hoot as always, but let's just say it is safe not to expect to laugh as frequently as you thought you would. Everyone needs to watch this, if only for the kids, but if you don't have as good a time as the first time, remember – it's not you, it's them.