I tend to have an oversimplified taste in movies- if it exceeds my expectations and I find myself entertained for the majority of the movie, I consider the film a success. I mean, I’m not going to go out and buy the DVD or anything, but at least I don’t feel like I lost two hours of my life I’ll never get back.
For that reason, among others, I am a fan of the Shrek franchise. There are enough stupid giggles and ridiculously sappy endings to keep me happy. And once they added Antonio Banderas to the franchise, I was sold. I’m one of those people who can’t get enough cat jokes.
It’s hard, however, to be excited to see the team at Dreamworks milk the cash cow yet again. Can the writing really and truly be THAT good to justify a fourth movie? It begs the question, do the actors lack integrity, or do they really believe in the material as much as they say they do?
Shrek Forever After is, when you get down to it, just another Shrek movie. It’s neither hilarious nor so awful that it’s impossible to sit through. It’s positively mediocre, with a decent story (with maybe a couple plot holes), some giggles, and nice ending that serves as good closure for the series.
The final installment sees everyone’s favorite ogre (still voiced by Mike Meyers) living with his wife and three kids in his swamp- which is now a popular tourist attraction. Couple that with Donkey, Puss, and the mutant dragon babies popping over for daily play dates, and the grind has become too much for Shrek. He signs a deal with Rumpelstiltskin (voiced by Walt Dohrn, one of the franchise’s writers and miscellaneous voice actors), which grants him one day as the fearsome ogre he once was, but it allows Rumpelstiltskin to steal a day from his life. This launches Shrek into an alternate reality in which he never saved Fiona, never met Donkey or Puss, never had kids, and Rumpelstiltskin rules the realm with a band of witches and comical wigs.
The movie progresses much like the others- Shrek goes on an adventure with Donkey, must win over Fiona, and there’s some evil dictator making things hard for them. The laughs don’t really keep rolling, but there are a few good chuckles (one of them being a well-timed Beastie Boys song). As always, it’s the details -the facial expressions, inside jokes, punch lines, and camaraderie between characters- that keep the story from being too boring. The supporting cast is, much like the other films, full of surprising vocal talent, like the ogres played by Jane Lynch, Craig Robinson, and John Hamm and witches voiced by Kristin Schaal, Lake Bell, and Kathy Griffin. The ending is sufficiently sappy (well, sappy enough for me- maybe I shed a tear or two), as only two ogres in love can make it.
When all is said and done, if you’re not familiar with the franchise, you’ll survive having not seen it. You’d be better off renting one of the first three and seeing how that pans out for you. But if you’ve got kids (or even if you don’t) and you don’t mind sitting through long stretches of juvenile humor to get to the occasional gem of wit from Puss in Boots, then I think you’ll find yourself pleasantly entertained for the 93 minutes of the movie.
**Author’s note– Don’t spend more on 3D- it really does not add anything to the experience. It just adds another layer that makes you have to squint harder at the screen.**