May 20, 2010

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Shrek Forever After (PG)
The Shrek tale reaches its final chapter in Shrek Forever After, a bit of It’s a Wonderful Life-like musing on the story of our loveable ogre.

Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) is a daddy of three happily burping and pooping little baby ogres. He and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are raising them in his native swamp, where, much to his horror, he has become a bit of a tourist attraction. He can’t get a moment of peace — not in the mud pit where he goes to relax, not even in the outhouse. At his ogre-babies’ birthday party, he is pestered to “do the roar” and taxed by general hullabaloo-ness. After a fight with Fiona, he stomps off wishing he could live the life of a “real ogre,” one who would terrify the populace and wouldn’t be expected to always be on good behavior.

Unfortunately, the devious Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) overhears Shrek’s troubles and is eventually able to trick him into signing a contract for one day of real ogreness. In exchange, however, Shrek inadvertently gives up his entire existence and he is thrust into a world where he was never born. Where he never saved Fiona from the castle; never met Donkey (Eddie Murphy); never introduced Donkey to his dragon wife; never met Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), who is now Fiona’s cat and too fat to fit in his boots. And where, worst of all, Rumpelstiltskin and an army of witches run Far Far Away and the ogres are all part of an underground resistance. Led by whom, you ask? Well, as her bad-ass martial arts moves in the first movie taught us, Fiona wasn’t likely to sit around and wait to be rescued forever.

You really did have a wonderful slime-covered life, Shrek — that’s generally the theme of this movie and there really isn’t much more to it than that. While none of the sequels have been able to capture the lightning-in-a-bottle charm of the first Shrek, this one may come the closest to catching that movie’s adventure. Though there is a lot of marital-discord talk — Shrek’s plot-starting fight with Fiona is basically a midlife existential crisis — the movie does give us witches to fight, a crazy little villain and some funny stuff with the Donkey and Gingerbread man and all those other characters we’ve come to look for. The kids in the theater where I saw this movie may not have been snorting soda up their noses with laugher, but they seemed able to entertain themselves even when Shrek was going on about his family responsibilities or Fiona was dealing with her deep sense of loneliness. I probably fidgeted in my seat more than most of the kids did, being less delighted by the pratfalls by the kids and equally tired of the talky parts.

I could have done without the requisite final dance sequence and without the 3D — the computer-generated animation already has the look of the 3D; the glasses did nothing but get in the way when I accidentally tilted my head and sent everything into a blur. I wasn’t delighted by anything here, but in fairness I wasn’t that aggravated either. If you’re looking for something to take the kids to, you could do worse. If you looking for a movie the whole family will enjoy, you could definitely do better — the first Shrek, for example. C+

Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language. Directed by Mike Mitchell and written by Josh Klausner and Darren Lemeke, Shrek Forever After is one hour and 33 minutes long and is distributed by Paramount Pictures. It opens wide on Friday, May 21.