May 18, 2007

Shrek The Third (05/18/07)

Lettergrade: D

Shrek The Third has some good laughs, but the thinness of the plot combined with a relative lack of ambition sort of makes the whole thing feel like a direct to video sequel.

In this one, Shrek's father-in-law dies early in the movie, meaning that Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are the new rulers of 'Far, Far Away.' Shrek doesn't want the title or the responsibility, and sets out to find Fiona's distant cousin Arthur, a nerdish high school kid voiced by Justin Timberlake, to take crown instead. As he is leaving on his quest, Fiona tells Shrek she's pregnant, leading to a ton of anxiety on Shrek's part about whether or not he'll be an adequate father. Meanwhile, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), disgraced after the events of Shrek 2, plots to take over 'Far, Far Away' in Shrek's absence.

While part 2 advanced the characters from the first picture considerably and mixed them all up in an inventive plotline, there's not much surprising about what transpires in this one. The basic dilemma, once again, is that Shrek feels he cannot fit in or achieve a certain task because he's an ogre. While there's a nice sentiment in there about believing in yourself and pushing forward all the same, it's pretty much the same note hit upon by the previous two movies. How fucking insecure is this guy that he needs to be reassured of his self-worth in every movie? Again, it has some good jokes and it is not a bad movie by any stretch, but I doubt that any children will experience a blinding flood of enlightenment or inspiration while in the theater.

I didn't like the first Shrek very much. The back-story on it is that Jeffrey Katzenberg was the #2 Disney who was unceremoniously fired around the time The Lion King came out in 1994. In retaliation, he got together with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen and formed Dreamworks SKG. Katzenberg would essentially run Dreamworks Animation and most of its pictures would bear his executive signature.

At time it came out in 2001, the first Shrek appeared to be a thinly veiled "fuck you" to Katzenberg's former bosses. Prince Farquaad (fuckwad?), voiced by John Lithgow, was even reported to have many of the same quirks and mannerisms as then-Disney CEO Michael Eisner. If so, I don't know how a reasonable person can fail to see it as a remarkably petty multimillion dollar vendetta project.

Shrek The First took a lot of the old Disney pictures to task for being sappy and somewhat irrelevant (which is fine), but then delivered a really saccharine Disney-style ending itself. Then there were the modern songs and all the pop culture references, which felt like blatant youth-appeal corporate-synergy cross-promotional bullshit, robbing the movie of any potential class or timelessness.

Shrek The Third tones all this down considerably, but perhaps it is telling of the series that once the novelty of the vocal talent starts to wear off and you peel away the garish soundtrack, what's left, while pleasant, isn't really all that interesting.

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