Shrek Forever After
What’s weird about a hefty kitty riding a donkey? Nothing at all.

Theatrical Release Date: 05/21/2010
Director: Mike Mitchell
Featuring the voices of: Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Walt Dohrn, Craig Robinson, Jon Hamm, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Conrad Vernon

“Shrek” ushered in Dreamworks animation to the world back in 2001. Since then, the studio and this franchise have enjoyed great financial success. And as a film, this first foray into a market so long dominated by Disney, and its adopted animation studio Pixar, helped to shape the formula for the genre. Sure, “Shrek” was a kids film but it also referenced pop culture and peppered the dialogue with enough double entendres to warrant a meeting with HR in most companies. The goal was to create an enjoyable environment not only for the little ones fascinated by talking animals and shiny objects but also keep their parents from committing hara kiri.

Well, since that time, “Shrek” spawned a few more sequels … sticking to its formula with dogmatic vigilance but not understanding that simply copying itself over and over again wasn’t good film making. Both “Shrek 2″ and “Shrek 3″ tested the limits of adult patience, though the talking animals and shiny objects kept the wee ones faithfully addicted and made the studio mountainous piles of currency.

As such, my expectations for “Shrek Forever After” were on the ground floor. Maybe that had something to do with it but this is the only sequel in the franchise that’s worth its weight in celluloid.

The premise is that Shrek (Mike Meyers) feels the monotony of his perfect life has co-opted his self image – no longer do people run in terror at the sight of this once fearsome Ogre. Instead they ask him to roar and find his bursts of anger or irritation charming. Enter Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who’s in the business of magical contracts and wants to rule the kingdom. He tricks Shrek into signing away the chain of events that has led to the happily ever after created within the first three films and so our big green hero must then find a way to undo the damage before it’s too late.

What’s nice about the story is that it allows for audiences to see the characters from a different perspective: Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is a warrior chieftain spearheading the revolt against the tyranny of Rumpelstiltskin, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has let himself go, no longer in his once tip top fighting shape, and the Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon) is now a cage fighter, fending off animal crackers with a lollipop axe (though they should have included much more of his character). Sadly, there is no change to Donkey (Eddie Murphy), save him not knowing Shrek because of the changes to the time line, but his affection for waffles is still charming.

All of the voice acting is on par with previous installments in the franchise and oddly enough, the 3D here is actually worth it should you find yourself beset by tiny voices clamoring for a trip to the theater on behalf of Ogres everywhere. I still find the dulling of the colors due to the tinted glasses a huge detraction from the film (maybe animators should overcompensate and brighten things up an extra notch in this regard) but unlike a number of other animated fare pushing themselves into that extra dimension, the overall effect here is immersive and fun.

Now, don’t get too excited, I’m not saying this film is better than any single Pixar feature (at best, it comes close to “Cars”) but this isn’t a franchise that has relied on adult interest. Those kids transfixed by all things animated that drag you through the toy aisle each time you go to the store will dictate your attendance. However, while I didn’t personally laugh out loud at any of the jokes, I was pleasantly entertained and it’s a far cry better than the middle chapters of the franchise, earning “Shrek Forever After” a 3 out of 5.

This is a nice wrap-up to the franchise, which has touted this to be the last in the series. However, don’t think the cash cow will be drying up for Dreamworks, the plan is to next do a spin off centered on Puss in Boots (though I would think that feature will feature a more slimmed down and ready for action version of the fighting feline).