- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
funny thing happened with Team Shrek as they assembled the last movie in the series: they finally stopped fucking around. After filling the first three movies with pitifully lame jokes about Euro Disney and dinner theater, “Shrek Forever After” is a serious meditation on being thankful for what you have. The hoary jokes and (God love them) the bathroom humor from earlier movies are downplayed in favor of, wonder of wonders, the story. Those looking for more fractured fairy tales will likely be disappointed, but from where this writer is standing, this is the most consistent “Shrek” of the bunch.
Shrek (Mike Myers) is having trouble settling into his life of domestic bliss. Every day is the same, and he longs for the days when he answered to no one and people actually feared him instead of treating him like a circus act. He blows his top at his birthday party, says regrettable things to his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and on his way home he runs into Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who offers him the chance to spend one day as a carefree ogre in exchange for one day of Shrek’s life. What Shrek doesn’t realize is that Rumpelstiltskin blames Shrek for killing a deal years earlier that would have led the King and Queen to sign the kingdom over to him in exchange for Fiona’s freedom, so the contract he offers Shrek comes with a terrible price: in this alternate world, his friends and his wife have no idea who he is, and his children don’t exist.
Pretty dark for a “Shrek” movie, yes, but the movie isn’t without its humor. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is still a pop song-riffing chatterbox, and his character’s innocence is actually used to great effect in advancing the story. (Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots, though, is treated as an afterthought.) The funniest character, though, is a spoiled little kid named Butter Pants, who pesters Shrek at his birthday party. Rumpelstiltskin gets the rest of the jokes – and is easily the best villain Shrek has faced – but his humor is cutting, more sinister than slapstick. Indeed, he even pulls a Bobby De Niro during an unpleasant discussion with his army of witches. Rankin & Bass fans, meanwhile, will laugh out loud when they see Rumpelstiltskin‘s “angry wig.” They’ve even gotten smarter about the music. When the Pied Piper shows the witches just what he’s capable of, the song he plays will have alt-rockers pumping their fists, while Shrek’s wild broom ride is set to a cover of the English Beat’s “Click Click.” These choices make it a heck of a lot easier to swallow Lionel Richie’s “Hello” later.
Like the other “Shrek” movies (and DreamWorks Animation movies in general), this one is stunt casted to the heavens. Unfortunately, the new people just fill in the cracks. The only one that stands out is Craig Robinson’s Cookie, but is it because he’s funny or because he’s ambiguously gay? And did they need to bring in Lake Bell and Meredith Vieira to play witches? It’s surprising that they would let Dohrn, a behind-the-scenes guy, take a role as pivotal as Rumpelstiltskin, but the movie is better off for it.
I suspect that people will complain about what “Shrek Forever After” lacks in comparison to the other three installments, but I will take a drastic reduction in fart jokes and bad puns in favor of some heart any day of the week. How about that: a “Shrek” movie with soul. Never saw that coming. What a pleasant surprise.