Shrek Forever After
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Back in the good old days when movies had titles instead of numbers, it was easier to be surprised since there was more originality at work. The current mindset is “if it worked before, it’ll work again.” Such is the case with Shrek Forever After, which is also being called Shrek: The Final Chapter. At least someone had the good sense to recognize that this tale has reached its limit for rehashing.
The story is a remake of It's a Wonderful Life with Shrek instead of Jimmy Stewart seeing what life is like if he’d never been born. During a mid-life crisis… yes, even ogres have those… Shrek signs a deal with the devious and despicable Rumplestiltskin to get his life back before he was married with children, and routine, and responsibilities. Naturally, he doesn’t like what he discovers, and spends the rest of the film trying to put it back the way it was. Or as Dorothy would say, “there’s no place like home.”
As in the other three Shrek sagas, all the regular voices are back. Mike Myers is fine doing his Scottish ogre accent as Shrek. Cameron Diaz does Fiona, a role that emphasizes what a lightweight actress she is. Many times it sounds as if she’s just reading the lines. John Cleese and Julie Andrews have brief appearances as the King and Queen. But the most engaging of the bunch, both vocally and as characters, are Eddie Murphy as Donkey and Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots. The real surprise is Walt Dohrn as Rumplestiltskin. Dohrn usually works behind the scenes at Dreamworks Animation, and occasionally does a voice or two. But here he has the opportunity to voice a full-fledged character, and does a marvelous job. The weaselly, deceptive Rumplestiltskin bears a facial resemblance to Anthony Hopkins, and Dohrn adds a vocal stylization that is just right.
The film is also peppered with the use of pop tunes from primarily the 1960s and 70s. Sometimes the effect is humorous and works; in other scenes they are distracting and out of place. However, I guess that’s better than churning out a batch of non-descript original songs that stop the story dead in its tracks.
The 3-D technology is used to good advantage. Occasionally the filmmakers resort to the usual “throw something at the camera” perspective, but that’s ok… it’s a lot of what 3-D is about, so it never hurts to show it off occasionally. Since Shrek Forever After was actually filmed in 3-D, the depth is appreciable, unlike the retrofit Alice in Wonderland in which the 3-D was added as an afterthought in a computer. The digital IMAX screenings are fine for picture and sound quality compared to a regular non-3D showing, but still not as good a the earlier full-fledged IMAX 3-D titles that were shown via actual film. Some of those were truly spectacular.
And speaking of 3-D, it seems as if the corporoids in Hollywood are determined to once again kill this format through the overuse of so-so films just so they can charge more. That’s too bad, since the format can be quite breathtaking when done properly. After all, how many animated films are audiences going to be willing to shell out inflated ticket dollars to see. The last really original and enjoyable animated 3-D films were last year’s Up and Coraline, and in films released since those, the trend continues the “ho-hum” instead of “a-ha!”
The PG-rated Shrek Forever After is not necessarily a bad film, but it’s nothing special either. It all comes down to what you and your family are willing to spend to see it. It’s available in IMAX 3-D, regular digital 3-D, and the standard 35mm non-3D prints. It’s playing everywhere, so you can have your pick of cinemas and formats.