Looking back and watching the third Shrek film away from the glare of the hype machine that propelled it in the summer, it’s perhaps inevitable that opinions on it are a little softer.
That said, there’s little getting away from the fact that this is the weakest member of a trilogy that, truth be told, hasn’t come close to matching the original with its subsequent sequels. Because the first Shrek was something different, an irreverent postmodern take on umpteen fairytales, shoehorned into a clever, age-agnostic feature with real rewatch appeal. The first sequel? Well, it lacked a strong enough script to get it through the running time, and instead turned to Eddie Murphy’s scene-stealing donkey a little too often to paper over the cracks, but it was still fun.
The most damning thing you can say about the third Shrek movie though is that it’s a perfectly functional, routine computer animated movie. When you consider that that’s partly what Shrek played against originally, then it’s quite a sign of how far it’s fallen.
But it’s worth stating, still, that Shrek The Third isn’t a bad film. The story this time is a bit of a jumble of cliches, as Shrek gets used to the idea that Fiona is going to have his nipper. Meanwhile, the ogre is also keen to find another heir to the throne of Far Far Away, when it becomes clear that otherwise the mantel will fall to him. Cue an adventure that takes him off to find cousin Arthur, while also dealing with a plot by Prince Charming (voiced by Rupert Everett) to take over the kingdom. It’s back-of-a-fag-packet-stuff.
To be fair, you could even have mapped out the plot points on an Etch-A-Sketch this time round. But you’d need a far more powerful device to power the animation, because this is where Shrek The Third strikes gold: it simply looks stunning. No expense has been spared when putting the images on the screen. Now if they’d spend a bit more on the script, and chuck a few more funny gags in there, the thought of the upcoming fourth and fifth Shrek movies wouldn’t be so troubling.
The HD DVD, as you’d expect, makes light work of the picture, and it looked utterly stunning on a 52” 1080p screen. The level of detail in the image is immense, and it’s simply an image transfer that’s hard to pick fault with. The audio work wasn’t quite as involving as we’ve seen on other HD releases, but it’s still quietly impressive. It’s a Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track provided on the disc.
The extras are mainly holdovers from the DVD, although they do bother to encode the majority of them in 1080p. You’ll find deleted material, a cast chat, a look at the technology behind the film and some kiddie-focussed bits and bobs. Exclusive to the HD DVD, although still not as good as it should have been, is a picture in picture feature whereby you can see, as the film plays, some of the work in progress materials and deleted bits and bobs. In all, an extras package that makes a nice long list, but there’s nothing really worthy going out of your way for.
Where Shrek The Third does work is as a HD DVD demo disc, and as a decent little film to keep the anklebiters happy from to time. But there are warning signs with the movie that Dreamworks would be wise not to ignore. Their golden goose isn’t dying, but he’s looking a bit, er, green…