Shrek Forever After

Voiced by  Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Walt Dohrn, Antonio Banderas and John Cleese, and Julie Andrews. Directed by Mike Mitchell.
Rated PG (mild themes and animated violence). 93 min.

Variously advertised as “Shrek 4”, “Shrek – the Final Chapter”, and “Shrek Forever After”, this movie has been made especially for  Real D 3-D, and is intended to be the last of the Shrek movies. The first film captivated movie audiences around the world, the second was almost as good, and the third plainly disappointed. In this film, the series takes an imaginative turn for the better.

Shrek is disillusioned and frustrated by his lot in life. He is sick of his celebrity status, his three little ogre children are starting to annoy him, his wife is criticizing him, and he has lost his status as a respected “ogre”. He is experiencing a mid-life crisis, and clearly missing the good old days. Rumpelstiltskin, the evil Brothers Grimm character, who tried to outwit Shrek in the first film, resents Shrek for doing him out of a promised kingdom, and offers him a day in which he can be a real ogre again, in exchange for a day from Shrek’s childhood. Rumpelstiltskin outwits Shrek this time by choosing the day on which he was born, and Shrek fights not to lose forever the day that defines his existence. Rumpelstiltskin has trapped Shrek in a world, full of witches, where Rumpelstiltskin reigns supreme, and Fiona, the Donkey, and Puss in Boots no longer recognise him. He has to win their friendship back, and reignite Fiona’s love. She is now a warrior leading a rebellion by the ogres, and the contract he has signed with Rumpelstiltskin can be broken only by true love’s first kiss. The first kiss he tries with Fiona doesn’t work, but just at the last moment when he is lapsing into non-existence, a kiss from Fiona breaks the curse. Shrek has sacrificed himself to save the others, so that “all ogres can go free”, and Fiona responds to his goodness. With the spell broken, Shrek returns to the present to find Fiona, his family, and friends, just as he left them. When the final credits roll, images from Shrek 1, 2, and 3 fill the screen. They all suggest that this film will be the final one we will see. 

Being made for 3-D, the film makes excellent use of that format, and devotees of the Shrek series should try to see it in that medium. The usual voices play their characters well, and the principal cast members take up their earlier roles. The film is a fun-ride with characters we know, and it achieves some magical moments, which include the ogres forced to dance to the Pied Piper’s tune, the ogres playing trumpet music with their noses, and the sweeping aerial spectacle of the witches’ first arrival. The fairy-tale allusions of Shrek 1 and 2 are missing, though there are smart references to other Hollywood movies, such as the Harry Potter series. This time around, the adult story-line is more sophisticated and reflective than the movies that have gone before. This will appeal to adults, and children will enjoy the colourful, special effects.  There is a lot of emotion in this movie, and although the overall humour is not as apparent, several of the scenes are touching and capitalize cleverly on what we already know, and like, about these characters from the past. Although the comic delight of the first film doesn’t eventuate, there are lots of highly enjoyable moments, and the quality of the animation by DreamWorks is excellent.

The movie leaves Shrek appreciating at long last what he fought so hard to achieve, and it is love and family values that ultimately triumph. Appropriately, this is a happy-ever-after movie, and has everyone dancing and singing in the end.

This movie brings to a conclusion an incredibly popular and enjoyable series. It entertains imaginatively, and both adults and children should enjoy it. But maybe the final chapter is not yet written. Shrek in 3-D is currently showing at “Movie World”, a theme park on the Gold Coast, as Shrek in 4-D, in which three-dimensional Shrek effects are supplemented by touch, smell, and sensations of movement. There appears to be an appetite out there for more Shrek. 

Paramount Pictures. Out June 17, 2010

Peter W. Sheehan is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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