Shrek Forever After
If and when I ever have kids, before I teach them their ABC’s, before I teach them to walk and definitely before I teach them to talk, I will teach them not to talk…during movies. I don’t care if it’s a kid’s movie or if I take my 4-year-old to see BASIC INSTINCT 5, they will know to save their questions and comments till after the lights come up again. Okay, that tangent aside – from which you can determine the audience that made up my showing – I’d like to say the people at Dreamworks surprised me with their fresh approach to the fourth film in this series. Sure they had some of the typical jokes dealing with flatulence and Eddie Murphy hamming it up as Donkey singing way too many songs, but the plot device that sets the story in motion is surprisingly adult, and with the endless number of fairy tales at their disposal, they were able to use some new devices to add to their old formula and come up with a funny, enjoyable film that I actually heard most of…despite the best efforts of my younger fellow movie-goers.
Shrek (Mike Myers) has a measure of celebrity in the land of Far Far Away, and babies to take care of and continuous playdates with the family of his obnoxious and oblivious friend, Donkey (Eddie Murphy). Because of this, he has a bit of a mid-life crisis and longs for the days of being a feared ogre. In an attempt to get at least a day back of that desired past, he makes a deal with the crafty Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn – yeah, nobody really knows who he is). Stiltskin uses the deal to take over Far Far Away in an alternate universe where –IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE-style – Shrek has never been born, where Donkey doesn’t know who he is, where Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is a Garfield wannabe, and his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz), is a leader of an ogre resistance. The film is then spent trying to find the way to undo Rumpel’s treachery and get Shrek back to his old life, and in the process we see his army of witches flying at us in 3D, a Gingerbread Man doing a great send up of GLADIATOR, and an underused Pied Piper which had the possibilities for more laughs.
The adult theme that SHREK FOREVER AFTER touches on that most kids won’t get is what truly made the film for me. The smarter kids might get the underlying theme of the unhappy monotony of the family man, AKA their fathers, but essentially the construct is used really well in setting up the other situations, most of which are done well. The 3D enhances the animation a bit, but not enough to warrant the bump in price, and the parts that come out at you seem like gimmicks rather than necessary to furthering the story. The voices we have come to equate with these characters do their job, especially Antonio Banderas as Puss, but the new character – Rumpelstiltskin – that had the most opportunity to add to the story needed to be a recognizable, menacing or conniving voice (maybe Danny Devito or Ben Stiller). Walt Dohrn is an obscure writer and animator who adds nothing in his portrayal of the villain, and that was noticeably lacking. But other than that, this is impressive for the fourth film in a franchise. It is a funny, engaging film for all audiences that did not simply regurgitate the jokes from its previous films. Mike Myers should take note if he ever thinks of making another AUSTIN POWERS flick.