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"Over burdened with responsibility and a yearning for simpler, carefree times."
"A lack of imagination, a lack of structure and composition, and most importantly, a lack of a compelling tale to tell."
"By the third helping, becomes unwanted left-ogres."
Shrek the Third  

Cast

Shrek: Mike Myers
Donkey: Eddie Murphy
Fiona: Cameron Diaz
Puss In Boots: Antonio Banderas
King Harold: John Cleese
Queen Lillian: Julie Andrews
Prince Charming: Rupert Everett
Merlin: Eric Idle
Artie: Justin Timberlake
Review May 2007

In a galaxy Far Far Away, there lived a happily married ogre named Shrek, who once saved the kingdom from the chaotic Lord Farquaad and survived a near fatal confrontation with the Fairy Godmother. Now, he faces an even bigger challenge, that of fatherhood. Not to mention, thwarting the plans of the vengeful Prince Charming and finding a rightful heir to the throne. Directed by newcomer Chris Miller, "Shrek the Third" marks the return of everybody's favorite obstinate ogre along with such affable characters as Donkey, Puss in Boots, and Fiona. And it also introduces many new ones like the soon to be King Arthur and the magically challenged Merlin, voiced by Justin Timberlake and Eric Idle. However, in spite of new and familiar faces and a delightful return to animated form, the film lacks the imagination, creativity, and energy that made the fairy tale fun. Maturing all too quickly into adulthood, "Shrek the Third," is over burdened with responsibility and a yearning for simpler, carefree times.

At the request of King Harold and Queen Lillian, Shrek and Fiona have been summoned to Far Far Away to take their place as the rightful heirs to the throne. But after just a few days of royal duties, it becomes quite apparent that Shrek is not cut out for such work. He wounds a man during a knighting ceremony; he destroys a boat on its maiden voyage, and nearly brings down the castle after bursting through his kingly attire. Most succinctly, he misses the coziness of his swamp home and the simplicity of his quiet life. So, upon the suggestion of King Harold, he takes a journey along with his friends, Donkey and Puss in Boots, to find the next after next in line - his cousin, Arthur Pendragon. But at his departure, Fiona leaves him emotionally unsettled. For she is pregnant and Shrek will soon be a father.

Meanwhile, the scheming outcast, Prince Charming, has unfinished business of his own. Displeased with his shortcomings in dinner theater, he gathers a band of fairy tale villains to find Arthur and regain status in the kingdom. There's Captain Hook, the Wicked Queen, Rumplestiltskin, the Headless Horsemen, and a variety of witches, knights, and animated trees. But to usurp the throne, they must do so without the Fairy Godmother's help and by going through Shrek first, who certainly seems preoccupied these days. Nightmares about fatherhood, death, homesickness, and a feeble, insecure teenage King Arthur. The key to Shrek's sanity will depend on whether he can keep an open ogre mind. Then, maybe, just maybe, everything will turn out happily ever after.

Following in monster footsteps, "Shrek the Third" expands on the franchise by taking the ogre into less fun territory - adulthood. Happily married, Shrek gets to become king, has the opportunity to move into a bigger castle, and become a father. Such should be a merry occasion, ripe with comedy and activity, but not for this brooding ogre. And like the grim outlook the character wears like a crown, the result is a much more serious, somber story. Certainly, there are plenty of new characters in the mix to lighten things up - King Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin, Guinevere, Rumplestiltskin, Cyclops, the Headless Horseman, and many more. And apart from its likable characters, the film's animation is lush and warm. But as Shrek would be the first to tell you, looks can be deceiving.

From the very beginning, "Shrek the Third" takes a noticeable detour and doesn't look back. Unlike the first two installments, which opened with the reading of a fairy tale, "Shrek the Third" discards the narration and jumps right into Far Far Away and a mid-life character crisis. Such a leap represents a sad departure from everything we've come to love about "Shrek," namely the spoofing of the common fairy tale. From a storytelling perspective, this is sacrilege. And as the film progresses, it becomes more apparent that there is a lack of imagination, a lack of structure and composition, and most importantly, a lack of a compelling tale to tell.

Even the characters themselves seem to be depressed, wallowing away in remorse with very little energy or lighthearted tomfoolery. In fact, there's very little for the new and returning characters to do apart from a few sight and sound gags. Gone are the exhilarating action sequences as in the first when Shrek and Donkey burst into a castle to save a fair maiden from a fire breathing dragon or the second, when Shrek, Donkey, and Puss battle the Fairy Godmother's henchmen after stealing a "Happily Ever After" potion. Alas, in "Shrek the Third," the urgency and the thrills have been replaced with passive sulking, pleading, and reflecting.

The film is also missing its vibrant soundtrack, where songs like Smashmouth's "All Star" and Counting Crow's "Accidentally in Love" perfectly punctuated the mood. I mean, how could anyone forget the memorable closing sequences and outtakes? Putting a spin on happily ever after with karaoke versions of "I'm a Believer" and "Livin' La Vida Loca," the first two films ended with an electric bang. But in "Shrek the Third," the story ends wholesomely, without the pizzazz, quietly fading to black and rolling its credits. A shame, particularly when the film employs one of today's hottest musical acts in Justin Timberlake and yet, fails to mimic or utilize any of his mad song and dance skills.

Disappointingly, "Shrek the Third" acts the part of the empty sequel; one that capitalizes on the jet fumes of its predecessors while relying too much on character quirks and regurgitated routine. Rather than recreate the magic, the filmmakers have chosen the easy path, recycling pop culture shtick and passing it off for a few laughs. It's pleasant enough, but truth be told, it's the kind of thing you would expect from a straight to DVD movie, not a feature. The kind of entree that tasted good the first time around, provided appetizing seconds, but by the third helping, becomes unwanted left-ogres.



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