You know, Shrek (Mike Meyers) might be a big green monster who eats bugs and lives in a swamp, but he’s a lot like the rest of us. He’s got his wife, a family, friends who may or may not be wacky/annoying, and all the problems of a regular person, just ogre-ized.
Shrek’s midlife crisis is no different. Really, it’s the same sort of midlife issues that all men seem to face (at least on movies and television shows). He’s got his beautiful house, he’s got his beautiful wife, he’s got the kids, yet, he’s not happy, because he’s traded in freedom for responsibility. All he wants is to be an ogre again, not some stop on a tour bus route or a dad.
This is the main plot driving Shrek Forever After. Imagine it as sort of It’s A Wonderful Life, but slightly twisted in the Shrek style. Kind of like how the original movie was a twisted version of pretty much every fairy tale. However, Shrek isn’t about to throw himself off a bridge, not in a land where pretty much everyone has magic.
After a blow-up at his children’s first birthday party, Shrek goes for a stomp through the countryside and runs into Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who offers him a deal: one day from Shrek’s life in exchange for one day for Shrek to go back to his original existence of stomping, scaring, and generally living la vida ogre.
Unfortunately for Shrek, the day that he gives up is the day of his birth. That means he never rescues Fiona (Cameron Diaz), never meets Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas), and never makes Shrek 3. (Well, it’s not all bad!)
Now Shrek has 24 hours in which to save Far Far Away from Rumple while somehow getting true love’s kiss and invoking the opt-out clause in his contract with Rumple. Oh yeah, there’s also the little matter of an ogre rebellion against Rumple’s tyrannical rule over Far Far Away.
Given that this is the last Shrek movie (so they claim), it’s only right that the focus be back on Shrek and his journey through life. Given that the other Shrek movies were taken over by characters not Shrek, this is both a good thing and a bad thing.
The fact that all of the Shrek IV action takes place in what is essentially an alternate reality is also helpful in seeing what might have been (there’s just no Clarence the Angel present to guide Shrek on his journey. That role is filled by Donkey and Puss at various times).
After the underperforming Shrek The Third, it’s hard to justify further Shrek adventures. I guess that’s why they’re wrapping up the series after this last cash grab. Sadly, the writers have let Shrek down (again). There’s just not a lot of funny in this Shrek movie, aside from some musical cues.
The message of the film, which is basically be happy with your life because it’ll be worse if you’re not around, is a fairly easily communicated one, and the movie lacks the sparkle of the first two Shrek films.
The script by Josh Klausner (Date Night, one of about 12 writers on Shrek The Third) and Darren Lemke is okay, but there’s nothing special or noteworthy about it.
The movie’s funniest moments are actually the musical cues, rather than any of the Donkey lines or visual jokes, for example, witches having a techno party on magical instruments, or using the flute sample from a Beastie Boys song.
There’s some very sweet moments, but when you compare Shrek to Kung Fu Panda or even earlier fare like Antz, the movie just doesn’t hold up as well. Shrek’s moping about isn’t terribly entertaining for kids, but the in-jokes and sly nudges that made the first Shrek fun for all ages have pretty much dried up by this point, and the actual comedy hasn’t compensated.
Disappointingly, Shrek Forever After also has 3D that it doesn’t make use of. While you can get some thrills from an action movie in 3D, or even a horror movie, Shrek doesn’t actually make any use of its 3D. There’s one decent action scene involving a broom chase between Shrek and some witches, but aside from that one moment, the third dimension is basically unused.
Even Clash Of The Titans used its 3D more effectively, and that was a bolt-on pop-up book added without the approval of Titans director Louis Leterrier. One would hope that Shrek Forever After director Mike Mitchell would have had more to say in this aspect of his film, considering this movie was 3D all throughout the production stage.
Shrek Forever After, for all my carping, is significantly better than Shrek The Third. Then again, it would’ve been difficult for Shrek Forever After to be worse than Shrek the Third. Still, it’s basically an unnecessary movie pushed out solely to turn a profit for DreamWorks.
There’s not a whole lot of charm fourth time around, and the stolen premise from a 64-year-old holiday classic doesn’t exactly provide the Shrek mythos with any freshness. Shockingly, recycling an ancient movie with a tired group of characters and forcing audiences to pay for a weary gimmick doesn’t exactly make for a spectacular cinema experience. Still, the movie is only 93 minutes long, so it doesn’t overstay its level.
The film is able to capture just enough of the old Shrek charm to end the series on a decent note, though it’s not nearly enough to erase the bad taste left by Shrek The Third. There’s basically nothing left for Shrek to do from this point. Well, except go to space or get involved in a prequel, both of which are still left on the Big Board Of Sequel Ideas.