July 01, 2007
Shrek the Third (2007)
In the year of 2001, the relatively young studio DreamWorks released the animated film "Shrek", the movie that would finally consolidate them as a major player in the field of computer animation and as the main competition for Walt Disney Pictures. Loosely based on William Steig's 1990 children's book of the same name, "Shrek" was a highly original reworking of traditional fairy tales that took everyone by surprise with its fresh humor and extremely likable characters. Giving a twist to the classic concept of a princess locked in a tower by a dragon, "Shrek" had a grumpy ogre instead of handsome knight, a talkative donkey instead of dashing stallion, and a very down-to-earth princess with a dark secret. Obviously, the film's success prompted DreamWorks to make sequels, with part 2 appearing in 2004, and in 2007, "Shrek the Third".
In "Shrek the Third", we find Shrek (Mike Myers) and his wife, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), living at the castle of Far Far Away as Fiona's father, King Harold (John Cleese) has fallen ill and Shrek must take his place. While not really happy about it, Shrek accepts hoping to return to his swamp as soon as the King recovers is health, but sadly, King Harold dies, leaving the grumpy ogre as heir to the throne. Not happy with the idea of ruling a country, Shrek decides to find the other heir: Fiona's cousin Arthur (Justin Timberlake). Together with his friends Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas), Shrek sails to his new adventure, but another unexpected event shocks the ogre: Fiona is pregnant. To make things worse, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) is back and is decided to conquer Far Far Away and destroy Shrek forever.
Following the story that Andrew Adamson conceived for the planned sequels (apparently three sequels will be made), writers J. David Stem, David N. Weiss and Jon Zack join forces with script doctors Jeffrey Price and Peter s. Seaman, in an attempt to recapture the magic that made the first two "Shrek" movies a hit. Well, it could be said that they succeeded to a certain extent, as the movie still retains that wild anarchic humor that made the first one so fresh and interesting. While obviously lacking the novelty factor of the first one, the movie packs several great jokes surrounding Shrek's mid-life crisis and his doubts about paternity, as well as giving the "Shrek touch" to the Arthurian legend. As the other two films, this movie is also based around a life lesson, and while it's handled a little bit less subtle than in the other two, the writers manage to make it work fine.
Chris Miller and Raman Hui (Animatiors of the first two "Shrek" films) are the ones now in the director's seat, and together they manage to build what's probably one of the best looking movies of the last years. As former animators, the two directors put a lot of care in the visual design of the film, making an extremely detailed film, with a very fluid animation and wonderful character design. It certainly looks like the crew at DreamWorks have certainly improved their craft, as "Shrek the Third" has probably the best CG animation in human beings done to date. Miller and Hui remain faithful to the "Shrek" style that Adamson created for the two films, so fans of the first two won't be disappointed by the looks of this film. The film flows at a nice pace, although one would prefer that the same care taken in the visual department had been taken in the development of the script.
As usual, Mike Myers adds a lot of charm to the character, still making an excellent performance as the grumpy yet very lovable green monster, and this time he receives many of the best scenes too. As Donkey, Eddie Murphy keeps being hilarious, although since Shrek took the spotlight this time, Donkey's role is drastically reduced to mere companion together with Antonio Banderas' Puss-in-boots. As Puss, Banderas still steals every scene he is in, as unlike Murphy, his character did received a development this time. As Fiona, Cameron Diaz has less to do this time, but she still makes a solid performance. Finally, Ruppert Everett is delightful as the pathetic Prince Charming. In the supporting roles we find Julie Andrews and John Cleese reprising their roles as Fiona's parents in a good way, and Justin Timberlake and Eric Idle are nice additions to the cast.
While "Shrek the Third" is by no means a bad film, those expecting something on the level of the previous installments of the franchise will be left a bit underwhelmed. While the lack of the surprise factor of the first two can be considered an important reason for this, the writers are not without fault. The main problem I see is that they have an enormous cast of likable characters to put on the film, and by trying to give each one of them a moment to shine the result is that many end up tragically underused, never reaching the full potential of what the writers intended them to be (Eric Idle's Merlin is the perfect example of this). Anyways, despite these problems the movie still works, mainly because the humor is still as wild and clever as usual, so fans of the series won't be disappointed in that aspect.
While some may criticize the more mature nature of this movie (there's nothing inappropriate, but it's clear that more jokes are aimed to adults than to children), I think it fits perfectly within the "Shrek" universe, as even when the movie is quite popular with kids, it's target audience has always been those young adults who grew up with Disney's fairy tales. Those who didn't like the previous films won't find anything to make them change their mind, but those who loved them will find that the magic is still there.
Buy "Shrek the Third" (2007)