Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review: "Shrek Forever After"

I'm not seeing blood red about having to sit through more ogre green -- mostly because the fourth installment in Dreamworks' 800-pound animation franchise, "Shrek Forever After," is reasonably entertaining. Certainly, it's a big improvement over the awful "Shrek the Third."

Still, it's clear the only reason this movie has for existing is also green -- the papery kind.

Consider this: Mike Myers (Shrek), Cameron Diaz (Fiona), Eddie Murphy (Donkey) and Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots) haven't starred in a single non-Shrek hit movie between them in the last few years.

Heck, Myers doesn't even have much of a career these days outside of voicing the un-jolly green giant. (I don't count "The Love Guru," since in time I wrote this sentence, you could have counted its entire box office gross.)

Let's face it, the "Shrek" machine was already growing tired by the first sequel, which at least had a frenetic energy and a boatload of pop culture jokes to keep the momentum going.

By the fourth go-round, the filmmakers are left to rely on rimshot one-liners -- Puss and Donkey call each other a "cat-tastrophe" and "re-donkeylous," respectively -- and overly familiar character quirks: Donkey sings! Puss preens! Fiona frets! etc.

To recap: In the first movie, Shrek learned to set aside his beastly ways and fall in love. In the sequel, he got to meet the in-laws and fight for his, er, woman. In the third flick, he came to terms with becoming a responsible adult and daddy.

So what's the obvious logical step? Yep, the mid-life blues.

Shrek gets fed up with being tied down by a wife and kids and makes a dangerous magical bargain to get a taste of his bachelor days. Of course, he learns to embrace domestic bliss in the end.

What's next? "Shrek: Curse of the Prostate Exam"?

About the only thing that's fresh is the addition of a whole gaggle of ogres. It has seemed awfully suspicious that, up until now, Shrek and his brood have been the only green-skinned folk we've seen.

Shrek bumps into them while traipsing through an alternate reality he helped create. He signed a contract with the mischievous Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) to have one day in which everyone is scared of him again. Of course, the sawed-off trickster finds a way to turn the tables so he's the ruler of the land of Far Far Away.

In this universe, Fiona is the chief brigand behind the ogre resistance. Her lieutenant is Brogan (Jon Hamm), Craig Robinson is the chimichanga-spewing cook, and Jane Lynch is the (apparently) only other female ogre.

Turns out Shrek, who we've thought of as a burly behemoth, is actually rather undersized for his race.

Donkey's around, pulling wagons for the army of witches allied with 'Stilstskin. So is Puss, though he's put aside his boots to live the life of a plump, pampered pet kitty.
It's all one big fun -- but pointless -- caper with old friends.

Sum it up this way: Imagine if "Shrek Forever After" were not the fourth movie in a series, but the first. Based on its mild amusements, do you think anybody would be dying to make another, and another, and on? That's wishful thinking.

2.5 stars out of four

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