Bockelman: Fourth ‘Shrek’ is fun, but hopefully last in series

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“Shrek Forever After,” 2.5 out of 4 stars; 93 minutes; Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas. Now playing at the West Theater.

What if George Bailey had really taken advantage of his situation in “It’s a Wonderful Life” by terrorizing the residents of Bedford Falls and surfing along their rooftops?

Well, the greatest Christmas movie of all time probably wouldn’t have been quite so heartwarming, but it would’ve had a lot more in common with “Shrek Forever After.”

Of course, a pair of antennae ears on Jimmy Stewart would have completed the illusion.

Living the life of an ogre means getting used to solitude and being feared by all.

Or at least that’s what it’s supposed to be, but for the fairy tale world’s most famous green monster Shrek (voice of Mike Myers), life has taken a different turn.

Sure, he loves his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz), their three babies and all the friends he’s accumulated, but lately, he’s longed for the good old days when he would roar ferociously and people would run in abject fear rather than applaud.

When he meets knee-high dealmaker Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), Shrek has the chance to live 24 hours as a real ogre once again. But making this magical bargain comes at a price, as he finds out that the nasty little man has created an alternate timeline in which he is the ruler of Far Far Away, ogres are fugitives and no one has ever heard of Shrek. It’s up to the confused family man to fix things over the course of one day to make sure everyone turns out happily ever after.

Myers’ Scottish accent is as good as it has ever been in voicing the antisocial anti-hero that put DreamWorks Animation on the map. However, hearing Shrek gripe about anything and everything was always one of the funnier aspects of his personality, and the wistful tone he possesses in the latest installment changes his whole dynamic.

Diaz, on the other hand, gets a lot rowdier dialogue as Fiona, who serves as the leader of the ogre resistance in this world turned upside down, having never been rescued by her true love.

But life has turned out differently for all those in their circle, some more drastically than others.

For Shrek’s best friend and sidekick, Donkey (Eddie Murphy), it just means he has never met his favorite pal or his dragon wife, but he still believes in the Waffle Fairy. However, for Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), living in this alternate plane of existence has turned him into a lazy, pampered house pet who resembles Garfield more than his original Zorro design.

But we’re all familiar with these characters by now, and the addition of animator Dohrn as the crooked Rumpelstiltskin is a welcome change from the droves of celebrity voice cast members who return. And the Troll doll-styled “Angry Wig” he wears is just the capper.

There’s never been a shortage of cute side characters in the “Shrek” films, but for the fourth movie, the creators go for the ugly, introducing us to a gang of witches who do Rumpelstiltskin’s bidding and more ogres than you can shake a stick at.

This overabundance of extras distracts largely from those who have been favorites since the first movie, and with the exception of the newly reintroduced Pied Piper, a mute bounty hunter who lets his flute do the talking, the surplus hurts the story. If the writers were to strip everything down, the bare bones of the narrative probably wouldn’t fill more than half an hour, making a nice companion piece for the holiday special “Shrek the Halls.”

This isn’t to say that the movie won’t entertain family audiences, but even the kids in the crowd have to be getting tired of the ogre by now. Even learning that the green creatures can trumpet out their ears by plugging their noses and blowing isn’t likely to wow those under the age of 10 for long.

None of the “Shrek” movies have been bad, but like its predecessor, “Shrek Forever After” just feels largely unnecessary, doubling the number of films in the series that there should have been. Nonetheless, it comes off as much more complete in ending the story with what is purportedly the final chapter.

Still, can we get the promise of no more sequels in writing?

Now playing at the West Theatre.

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