May 18, 2007

Movie Review: Shrek the Third

Posted in Movies at 7:31 pm by Calico Jack

The curse of the three-quels seems to be plaguing Hollywood in full force this year, as Shrek the Third provides an unexpectedly disappointing installment in what once was the only animated franchise that could match Pixar in wit and charm (of a sort). This time around, however, the producers have fallen victim to their own successes — or perhaps merely run out of ideas. Shrek the Third is almost devoid of humor; and even running at a trim 92 minutes, has little momentum to propel its staggeringly weak plot forward, instead relying on halfhearted slapstick comedy and tired gags to cover up the fact that this movie, in fact, simply isn’t much fun.

All of the cast from Shrek 2 are back once more, but there are no new characters with the same pizazz as Antonio Banderas’s Puss in Boots. Rather, Justin Timberlake gives a mediocre performance as the future King Arthur, now a shrimpy high school student in Worcestershire who prefers to be called Artie. Such a nickname can’t possibly do much for his manhood, as he spends his time being a target dummy for Lancelot’s jousting club and getting picked on by the resident D&D nerds.

After King Harold (John Cleese) passes away in a painfully protracted death scene, Shrek (Mike Myers) is now first in line to assume the throne — even though he would rather do nothing more than retire to his swamp with Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and live the rest of his life king- and child-free. The only way out of this rather unenviable position is to bring Artie back home and have him claim the crown instead — fairly simple, right? Actually, for once it is: Shrek the Third neglects to build any sort of meaningful dichotomy or conflict between Shrek and Artie, but squeezes both characters into a generic “uncertain teacher/uncertain pupil” relationship during their trek home to Far, Far Away. Sidekicks Puss in Boots and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) serve only as scene filler for much of the movie, and the duo’s visual gag late into the second act falls flat in both premise and execution.

Complicating matters for beleaguered Shrek is Fiona’s announcement that ogre babies might be arriving soon; yet her pregnancy is woefully underdeveloped, and there are many missed opportunities for genuine humor regarding her situation. Rather, Shrek the Third takes the easy way out with the return of Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), leading an assorted band of fairy-tale villains (including Captain Hook and Rumpelstiltskin) and seeking to reclaim his “rightful” kingdom. The biggest problem with this plot development is that it doesn’t go anywhere; Charming takes over the castle, holds the kingdom hostage — and prepares an extravagant stage production, starring himself as a noble knight rescuing Rapunzel from her tower. As evil mastermind plans go, this one is rather anticlimactic. Only the fortuitous arrival of Shrek himself allows the prince to add drama to the proceedings, but even then there is little sense of urgency for anyone involved. And the addition of talented comediennes Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and Amy Sedaris as Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel, and Cinderella, respectively, barely enhance this lackluster story; they are given little with which to work.

Shrek the Third looks awfully pretty, of course; the top-notch animation has always been one of Shrek‘s strengths. And it avoids the “bigger is better” syndrome which made such a mess of Spider-Man 3. But directors Chris Miller and Raman Hui have mistaken broad physical comedy for genuine humor and produced a film which feels trite at almost every turn. The wit of the first two films is also gone; nary a chuckle can be found amongst the interminable plotting and clichéd gags. Kids will most likely enjoy seeing the return of Shrek, but it should come as little surprise when the most-requested repeat viewings are for the first two films. Shrek the Third is a halfhearted mix of all sorts of unoriginality, and it is hard to see where the green ogre could possibly go from here.

C-.

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1 Comment »

  1. kardanok said,

    Similar thoughts to mine, albeit a bit more harsh then my initial response.


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