Shrek Forever After
After the patience-sapping Shrek the Third, DreamWorks’s animation department offer a fourth and final instalment, rebooting the flagging franchise with a new alternate-reality twist. This year’s monster hit How To Train Your Dragon suggested that the studio’s output was reaching Pixar levels of sophistication, but Shrek Forever After is a warmed-over sequel that lazily re-configures familiar elements to mildly pleasing effect.
Shrek (Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) now enjoy domestic harmony in their swamp, with a brood of little green ogres to take care of. When the stress of fatherhood causes Shrek to have a meltdown during the kids’ first birthday party, the crafty Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrm) offers the ogre the chance to swap one day in his life in return for a temporary return to his toxic-bachelor lifestyle. In the style of It’s A Wonderful Life, Shrek is transported to a world where he never existed, and forced to join forces with his old chums Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) on a mission to return things to the status quo.
Shrek Forever After coasts along on the audience’s goodwill towards well-loved characters, with a selection of modish pop-culture references in the place of decent jokes or character development. The cheeky freshness that this tactic once provided now seems stale; when Donkey gets lovey-dovey with his dragon-mate and Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’ plays on the soundtrack, the result is less knowing than just plain cheesy. And while seeing Shrek and Fiona leading an underground revolution of disenfranchised ogres against Rumpelstiltskin’s ruling class of witches might be a fresh angle, this plot-line removes all the references to the familiar territory of Far Far Away, and abandons the neatly inverted satire of Disney family values that made the first two films so entertaining.
Despite the played-out nature of director Mike Mitchell’s sequel, children will probably still enjoy the fairy-tale gags, but adults are likely to find the increasingly curmudgeonly nature of Shrek’s character a trial; the fun still seeps through, but the original charm and magic of the Shrek series is all but gone.
General release from Fri 2 Jul.