The Good: One or two amusing lines, Decent animation
The Bad: Entirely derivative and self-referential, A lot of gags fall flat.
The Basics: Disappointing, both in terms of vocal performances and plot, Shrek Forever After is the final nail in the coffin of this cinematic franchise.
Truth be told, I'm not big on the whole Shrek phenomenon. I saw Shrek and was moderately amused by it. Rewatching it made me quickly loathe it. So, I never saw the sequels. However, when I had the opportunity to watch the fourth installment of the series, Shrek Forever After, hoping that it might reinvigorate my interest in the series and animated films in general. It, alas, did not.
The main problem with Shrek Forever After is that it is stale, plain and simple. The good ideas have been done and now, Shrek (the franchise) is just circling the bowl hoping to suck up a few more millions as it does. Largely, the film is not funny and beyond that, it is so far from its original concept (i.e. turning fairy tales on their proverbial ears) that it is almost unrecognizable as clever. Instead, it is a group of juvenile jokes strung together by once-lovable characters.
In this installment, Shrek is living the happy home life with Fiona. While working the publicity circuit (he's a celebrity in the kingdom), he encounters Rumpelstiltskin, who tricks him into a "what if" scenario. This scenario has Shrek living life as if he had not taken up the mission to rescue Princess Fiona. Unfortunately, Rumpelstiltskin is a trickster and he tricks Shrek into never existing and Shrek finds himself in a Far Far Away where the trickster is the king. As a result, Shrek must pretty much recreate the rescue of Fiona.
Unfortunately for Shrek, Donkey is no longer an ally in this alternate universe and Fiona is far from being the helpless damsel in distress. Instead, ogres are hunted in Rumpelstiltskin's Far Far Away and Fiona leads the ogres who are hunted. As Shrek works to make Fiona love him and accept his kiss, Rumpelstiltskin works to put Shrek and his companions out of their misery.
Sadly, Shrek Forever After is entirely derivative. In many ways, it is just a rewrite of Shrek and the result is hardly original. Moreover, the jokes seem especially juvenile with fart jokes and similar body humor jokes ruling the movie. It falls flat. Moreover, the star appeal in Shrek Forever After seriously brings the work down. The first Shrek was released when Mike Myers was arguably at the peak of his popularity. Since then, he has faded into b- or c-list actors and all this Shrek installment does is help illustrate why.
The reason, arguably, is because Mike Myers, while he has many good qualities, has largely one type of humorous delivery. He's good at scrunching his face up and making outlandish voices and he's decent at deadpanning the ridiculous. In Shrek Forever After, he makes his absurd voices and he deadpans lines that would otherwise be ridiculous. But we've seen it before. We've seen it from this actor in virtually everything he's ever been in. This installment of Shrek provides us with nothing truly new from Mike Myers.
To be fair, it's not all of Myers' fault. The script from Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke is especially weak and turns on the notion that fans will be amused by the "alternate universe" versions of popular characters. But they wear thin, like the fattened up Puss In Boots and the twisted way Rumpelstiltskin manipulates those under his command. And just as Myers is not used in any different ways, Eddie Murphy disappoints as Donkey. Murphy is exceptional at doing manic voices and here he does just what we've heard him do many, many times before.
Even Cameron Diaz does not do anything different with her voice to make the alternate incarnation of Princess Fiona in any way remarkable.
At least the animation is decent. Shrek Forever After has great coloring, a fun sense of movement and a very comical sense of physics to it that at least makes it visually easy to watch.
Ultimately, Shrek Forever After will hopefully be The Final Chapter because this episode feels far more like it is recycling the best jokes left out of prior installments. Unfortunately, that does not add up to an enjoyable or even interesting film.
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© 2011, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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