The Shrek franchise has managed to consume itself over the past decade, with a boring sequel followed by an even worse third entry conspiring to soil the memory of the original. Having said that, the first movie has not aged well, with its pop culture references anchoring and degrading it in a way that sets it apart from the timeless classics pumped out by Pixar during the same period. The fourth and final film is here, and it’s in 3D. But does anyone actually care?
I certainly didn’t. But having seen Shrek Forever After I have to say that it’s actually a return to form. Although the form is still that of an inexplicably Scottish ogre. The 3D is still as pointless as ever, but the story has received some serious attention, and though the saccharine sweetness of its sentimentality in the first few minutes will make you want to punch a child and teach it some home truths about welationships and wuv, the film effectively does this for you in due course.
So it goes like this: The matrimonial, patriarchal bliss of family existence begins to wear on Shrek, leading him into the hands of a vengeful Rumpelstiltskin who gives him one day as a bachelor thanks to a magical contract. The catch is that Shrek unknowingly consigns himself to having never been born, and he enters a world in which his absence has given Mr Skin a chance to take over, resulting in his beloved Fiona living as a warrior queen who leads the underclass of ogres in revolt.
With a 24 hour time limit on the resolution, Shrek 4(ever after) really has to drive forwards to pack in action and events. Characters from throughout the series return in slightly altered forms, and fans will definitely get a kick out of seeing the Gingerbread Man recast as a psychotic, gladiatorial biscuit, complete with crumbly wounds sewn shut with icing. Rumpelstiltskin is voiced with flare by relative unknown Walt Dohrn, and it is by far the stand out performance amongst a cast that is otherwise underwhelming if functional. Cameron Diaz is routinely rubbish, failing to pump any emotion into Fiona the fourth time around, and Eddie Murphy’s Donkey hits as often as he misses, which will work for some while infuriating others.
Shrek Forever After has a few genuinely funny moments, and the satirical look at fairytale beings that made the series famous is witty enough to please adults, with plenty of well executed slapstick stuck in to entertain the kids/me. Now if only Toy Story 3 wasn’t coming out in a few weeks…