Shrek the Third
There is an old saying that the ‘third time is the charm’. When you try to apply this to movies more often than not it is not true. Sometimes the third movie in a series just seems be the one too many. What was once bright and innovative becomes the repetition of a well established formula. This has happened with many films and now there is another to add to the list, Shrek the Third. The first film of the franchise was novel, bringing animated features to a new level. It was full of subtle satire that was over the heads of the children but kept the adults in the audience engaged. In the second film some new twists and a few new characters managed top keep things fresh. With the third it seems that they are now only adding on to the previously made structure and plots. They also appear to be trying to spread out the plot lines a bit too thin. This is another case where the third film isn’t really too bad it actually works in several spots but when compared to it predecessors it fails to shine as brightly. Overall the film will deliver laughs for the entire family but there is the feeling that the humor could have been sharper and more layered. The thing with a franchise like this is there is a built in marketing tie in to everything from fast food restraints to action figures. The kids won’t care much about plot development or whether the satire is as sharp as in previous films. All they want are funny talking creatures doing silly things and there is enough here to please them. As an adult I just hoped there would be more for us entwined in the story. It’s always nice when we can sit with the kids for a family film.
As the third film begins life is about to get more complicated for Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and his wife Princess Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz). Her father, King Harold (voiced by John Cleese) is a frog about to croak. He wants Shrek to take up the throne after his demise. After a prolonged but darkly funny death scene Harold uses his last breaths to info the reluctant ogre that there is one other candidate for the kingship of ‘Far Far Away’, Harold’s ditzy nephew Arthur Pendragon (voiced by Justin Timberlake). Shrek sets off to the privileged high school, the Worcestershire Academy, where Artie resides accompanied by his trusted friends Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas). Before he leaves Fiona drops a bomb shell on the already overwrought Shrek; she is expecting there first child. During the sea journey to the academy Shrek is beset with nightmares about his new role as a father.
When the trio arrives at the academy they discover that Artie is the lowest regarded student in the school. Even the geeks bully the lad. He is socially inept and completely ill prepared for his life. Artie sees the chance to rule his own kingdom as a great thing that is until Puss and Donkey tell him about all the crushing responsibilities waiting back in ‘Far Far Away’. The lad now panics at the idea of being the one responsible for so much. He tries to get control of the ship they are on and manages to crash the vessel into an island. It so happens that the island belongs to a former magic teacher of Artie, Merlin (voiced by Eric Idle). It appears that Merlin’s control over his powers is not what they used to be. During an accident he causes Puss and Donkey to exchange bodies for awhile. This sight gag really doesn’t have the same impact in an animated feature as it does in a live action film.
While Shrek is off on his adventure the situation for Fiona is about to become dire. The evil villain Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), has had his dreams of dominating ‘Far Far Away’ crushed and now has to earn a meager living in dinner theater. When he receives news about King Harold’s passing Charming decides that the time is right for his comeback. He plots to take the kingdom away from Fiona and her mother Queen Lillian (voiced by Julie Andrews) before Shrek can return with a true heir. Charming goes tot eh Posion Apple bar to recruit such dastardly characters as Captain Hook (voiced by Ian McShane) and the Wicked Queen (voiced by Susan Blakeslee). Fiona and her best friends are held captive. Of course Fiona’s gal pals include other notable story book princesses like Bell (voiced by Cheri Oteri), Snow White (voiced by Amy Poehler) and Cinderella (voiced by Amy Sedaris). When Shrek arrives back home he is captured and set to die at the hands of Charming during a performance of a play. It is up to Shrek and Fiona to save the kingdom and banish the evil Prince.
The film was co-directed by Chris Miller and Raman Hui taking over from Andrew Adamson who has moved on to the helm of the Narnia franchise. They do a good job of keeping the action moving along, especially important with the division of the story between Shrek and Fiona. It does appear to run down in the second act and has difficultly regaining momentum after that. At least the parents can have some find trying to match the famous voice cast with their characters and may get a laugh or two with some of the musical cues used. Technically this is the best of the three films. The animation is noting less than stunning. Every little detail is there from the texture of the skin to the movement of individual hairs. It took over a million man hours to bring this film to the screen with a budget over $150 million dollars. Unfortunately some of it could have been diverted to streamlining the plot a bit.
Mike Myers is an extremely funny man but he seems to have gotten all there is from this character. Like Wayne and Austin Powers before the joke is great at first but can wear thin. He is an energetic voice actor who brings his character to life but it feels like we’ve heard it all before. The same goes for the other excellent actors here. Eddie Murphy was crazy and fun as the motor mouth donkey but now it kind of gets on your nerves. One nice addition is the female comedians who play Fiona’s girl friends. Most came from Saturday Night live and are used to rifting with a part. As always Cameron Diaz is bubbly and fun even in her ogre guise.
Dreamworks certainly knows how to put together a family DVD release. The anamorphic video is bright and clear, the Dolby 5.1 audio is able to fill the room. What really stand out in this release are the extras. There are enough of them to keep the family entertain for many, many hours. There are actually two sets of extras. The first is available through your DVD player, the other accessible with a computer.
DVD Rom Extras
With all this the kids will be entertained for many happy hours. This is a good rainy Saturday flick so enjoy.