- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
spy for Lionsgate clearly walks the halls of DreamWorks Animation, because the plot for “Shrek the Third” is uncannily similar to “Happily N’Ever After,” the animated monstrosity Lionsgate released earlier this year. One scene in particular had me staring at two film critic colleagues in disbelief, as if to say, “Is this really happening?” DreamWorks’ take on the subject isn’t much better than Lionsgate’s, but it will survive the cribbing by “Happily” for a couple of reasons. For starters, no one saw “Happily N’Ever After” (if they were lucky), and two, hey, it’s a “Shrek” movie. The expectations of the audience are already low.
The story begins with Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), who was thisclose to becoming the heir to the throne of Far Far Away in “Shrek 2,” reduced to doing dinner theater, and getting heckled for his troubles. Charming blames Shrek (Mike Myers) for his plight and vows revenge on Shrek and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) by recruiting all of the fairytale villains (Rumpelstiltskin, Captain Hook, etc.) to unite, storm the castle and take the “happily ever after” that is rightfully theirs. Shrek, however, is not in the castle when the siege takes place. While on his deathbed, King Harold (John Cleese) informs Shrek that he is Harold’s choice as heir to the throne. He also reveals that the only other person that could lay claim to the throne is a young boy named Arthur (Justin Timberlake). Shrek, seeing a way out of being king, immediately leaves to find Arthur, which does not please Fiona, since she has recently discovered that she’s pregnant. Ogre babies, if Shrek’s nightmares are any indication, throw up a lot more than human babies. Just thought I’d share that with you.
I reiterate: they began the movie by making fun of dinner theater. Wow, how edgy. And witness Gingerbread Man’s snappy comeback to Prince Charming: “The only thing you’ll ever be king of is king of stupid!” That was the best line that they could come up with? Wow. Just….wow. In fact, some of the jokes are so obvious and unfunny (Arthur goes to school in the town of Worcestershire) that they could make you overlook just how bad Myers’ Scotsman impression truly is.
If there is any saving grace to “Shrek the Third,” it is in its willingness to be mean for the sake of funny. King Harold’s death scene, from the very beginning, is played for laughs, likewise the scene where Prince Charming is rehearsing his execution of Shrek. Granted, the former scene is far more awkward than the latter, but since there are so few moments where the writers appear to actually be trying to be funny, they are welcome when they arrive. If you think that’s harsh, check out the face-off in the gym between Arthur and Lancelot. A groaner of a joke is told, and it is followed by a woman going “Mwaaa, mwaaa, mwaaaaaahhhh” on a muted trumpet. Even the writers know that their jokes stink, but rather than coming up with a funnier one, they stick with the bad joke and add the trumpet in a self-deprecating, see-we’re-in-on-the-joke kind of way. Even the manner in which they shoehorn pop songs into the film is lazy. Seriously, is it acceptable to play “Live and Let Die” at the funeral for anyone? The song is about killing people, for crying out loud. Even Roger Moore would disapprove.
“Shrek the Third” is like spending an hour and a half with Fozzie Bear. You may get barraged with jokes, but that doesn’t mean that you should be laughing at all of them, or even two thirds of them. More isn’t better, in this case: better is better. The problem is, the “Shrek” writers don’t know better: they only know ‘Wocka wocka wocka.’
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
Hoping to give fans a little extra bang for their double-dipped buck, the Blu-ray release of “Shrek the Third” features exclusive bonus material like a pop-up trivia track, picture-in-picture storyboards (“The Animator’s Corner”), in-screen character biographies (“The World of Shrek”), and even customizable character menus. It’s a nice gesture on Paramount’s part, especially considering the original DVD extras were so bland. “Shrek’s Guide to Parenthood” isn’t even remotely as clever as it sounds, the “Meet the Cast” featurette is little more than EPK fluff, and the visual effects featurette (“Tech of Shrek”) comes off sounding like a commercial for Hewlett Packard and AMD. The sole gem of the group is “Lost Scenes,” where unused story ideas are pitched to the creative team using a handful of presenters and a roomful of storyboards. It's probably the best inside look at an animation studio that you're ever going to get; short of your own personal tour, or course.