There’s an obvious answer to the question “Why make another Shrek film when the last one was simply bad all over?” and it comes in the form of cynical dancing dollar signs for DreamWorks. But such blatant capitalism doesn’t stop it allay its potential to recreate the magic that made the original Shrek such a hit back in 2001.
No, that privilege is reserved for the plot, a weakly rendered “What if?” that film buffs won’t be able to resist calling the poor man’s It’s A Wonderful Life. With ogres. In 3D. But still…an ogre settled with two kids and a wife having a mid life crisis. Is this really the stuff of fairytales?
Apparently so. In this, the last episode in the life of everyone’s favourite jolly green giant, Shrek (Mike Myers)experiences an existential crisis that all men, or ogres, seem to favour. So he goes out, meets Rumplestiltskin and makes a deal that has danger written all over it – any day of his life, in exchange for one day to spend in his pre-Fiona existence. Except of course, the one day he’s told he’ll have to give up is, naturally, the day he was born. So no Puss in Boots. No donkey. No Fiona. No happily ever after. And while Shrek’s off trying to rectify this pretty gargantuan mistake in an alternative reality, Rumplestiltskin’s taking over Far Far Away, and only true love’s kiss from a feminist Fiona (Cameron Diaz) – who’s never met him – will save the kingdom.
Where can you go from here? Twee morality message aside, this film feels as tired as an unnecessary fourth film in a done-to-death franchise should and lacks the witty, sharp dialogue that made the first two Shrek movies a hit with adults and children alike. Those movies were great, with their anti-Disney anti hero and his grumpy ways – this is merely okay. There are some amusing moments (the Gingerbread man as a gladiator fighting animal crackers harks back to the dark comic vein of the first Shrek) but are you really going to spend your hard earned money on “okay”?
It’s a reasonable denouement to a once-great franchise that scrapes back just enough of the kudos lost by Shrek the Third to justify its own existence – mostly with its canny use of 3D in tunnels and hallways rather than actual laughs – but sadly, lacks the pioneering spirit of the original Shrek. DreamWorks have tried to make their ogre find himself – they would do well to try and do the same.