Shrek Forever After (review)

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It’s an Ogreful Life

They’ve promised us that this will be the last Shrek film, and please let it be true. Shrek Forever After is so tediously Shrek-lite pop culture junk food that I could simply rerun my review of Shrek the Third here and no one would notice anything amiss. The first Shrek was a brilliant deconstruction of fairy tales — it was one of the best movies of 2001, and deservedly won the very first Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Shrek 2 was even better. By Shrek the Third, however, I said:

We’ve seen it. We’ve been around the park twice, bought the T-shirt and the Shrek ears, sent a postcard home. Now we’re bored. What else ya got? More of the same? Yawn.

Look, I chuckled at Third. I snorted. I did. I passed a pleasant 84 minutes at the movies.

And exactly the same is true of Forever After. It’s not that this isn’t a moderately diverting film, with a few genuinely amusing chuckles and one or two actual belly laughs. It’s that those chuckles and those belly laughs are indistinguishable from those we’ve experienced before, which perforce lessens their impact.

It’s time to put this ogre out to pasture.

This time out, Shrek (the voice of Mike Myers: Inglourious Basterds, The Love Guru) is bored with domesticity. He and Fiona (the voice of Cameron Diaz: The Box, My Sister’s Keeper) have settled down in his little shack in the swamp, with the detached outhouse and in-ground mudbath, and three little ogres have come along. The babies burp and poop a lot, but they’re still really, really cute; Fiona adores her husband; and every evening, like clockwork, there’s the company of Shrek’s best friends, Donkey (the voice of Eddie Murphy: Imagine That, Meet Dave) and Puss in Boots (the voice of Antonio Banderas: Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over), to entertain him. Obviously, this is a nightmare up with which no self-respecting ogre should have to put, and Shrek is unhappy. (Is Fiona fed up with the daily grind of making a home? Of course not. Only men are allowed midlife crises, or a wish that their lives had gone a different way. Women live for changing shitty diapers and nagging their husbands to unclog the outhouse. It’s every girl’s dream.)

So Shrek makes a magical deal with Rumpelstiltskin (the voice of Walt Dohrn, part of the DreamWorks creative team and Head of Story on this film) to live just one day like he used to, terrifying villagers and wallowing in his mudbath unencumbered by husbandly and fatherly responsibilities. Of course it goes wrong — ya gots to read yer magical contracts closely; the fine print is a killer — and Shrek ends up in an alterna-Far Far Away where Stiltskin is a Sauron-like emperor and Fiona, who is leading an ogre uprising against the tyrant, doesn’t even know him.

It’s not a terribly convincing scenario, that Far Far Away would be an awful place if Shrek hadn’t rescued Fiona and convinced her that he was her one true love back in the first film. And it’s not even a terribly interesting one. Donkey still has all the best lines and is easily the sweetest, most likable character; I’m not sure if it’s awesome or sad that this is probably going to be the most memorable character Eddie Murphy will create. All the smartest jokes are in the trailer. There’s nothing in the least bit surprising about Forever After, which is really a crime, considering how subversive the first two films in the series were.

It’s notable, I’m sure, that none of the top-level creative folks here had anything to do with those first two films. Cowriter (with Darren Lemke) Josh Klausner contributed to Shrek 3 — and the similarly cheap and easy Date Night — and director Mike Mitchell’s chief claim to fame is having excreted Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (though this is more on the neutrally inoffensive level of his teen superhero comedy Sky High). And they tread safe water through Forever After, indulging in a fart joke here, some slapstick there. The genuinely unexpected moments — such as the new appearance in the series of one character from fairy tales I won’t spoil — are too few and far between and yet intriguing enough that you’ll wish the film was willing to take more chances.

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Thu, May 20, 2010 3:08pm

This would seem to support my assumption that instead of spending money on this, I’d be better off pulling out my DVD of Shrek 2 again.

Accounting Ninja
Accounting Ninja
Thu, May 20, 2010 9:22pm

One thing I don’t get, MAJ, and let me know if they cover this in the movie:

Why is Fiona an ogre?? She only became permanently ogre-fied after she and Shrek fell in love and had “true love’s kiss”.

She should still be human by day, ogre by night, right?

Fri, May 21, 2010 5:54pm

And, Ninja, what happened to Farquaad?

It would be the perfect opportunity to bring him back, wouldn’t it because I always thought it was a bit of a shame when he died because he was such a brilliant villain.

Accounting Ninja
Accounting Ninja
Fri, May 21, 2010 11:30pm

Exactly! I thought of that too!

Farquaad was determined to have Fiona for his bride, Shrek or no Shrek. He just happened to show up.

My fanfictiony idea:
Shrek doesn’t exist. Farquaad’s men succeed in rescuing Fiona from her castle and she marries him. After some time, King Farquaad discovers Fiona’s horrible secret: that she is Ogre by night. That she had managed to hide it for as long as she did was impressive; he thought it was just her extreme modesty. (She played up the role of lovable eccentric to keep her husband in the dark.) However, the King is enraged at her deception, because they have consummated their marriage and he is disgusted, because, hey, he’s a shallow prick, right? He orders his Queen killed, but Fiona being as tough as she is, escapes and finds refuge with a rogue Ogre troupe that happens to be part of a covert resistance faction that opposes the tyrannical Farquaad. Luckily for her, the troupe operates at night, so she can hide her human self by day. She is torn inside, though, as the Ogres have come to mean a great deal to her and the rage of her husband at discovering her curse still causes her great sorrow. Remember, this Fiona was thoroughly invested in “happily-ever-afters” and true love, so Farquaad’s spurning her caused great damage to her self esteem. If the Ogres were to spurn her too….

Meanwhile, Farquaad, having learned of his wife’s escape, and nursing his damaged pride at having bedded an Ogre, hatches a plan to not only drive Fiona out of hiding but punish Fiona’s home kingdom. In his paranoia, he convinced himself that Far Far Away was somehow responsible for a plot to humiliate him by orchestrating his marriage to the cursed Ogre-woman. He strikes with vicious brutality at the unprepared Far Far Away, reducing it to rubble. Fiona is devastated, but continues to work with the Ogres because she knows ending Farquaad’s reign of terror is the only way to truly begin restoring her home and honor her dead parents.

Enter a strange yourg Ogre man named Shrek who seems to know Fiona and her secret!

Shrek 4
Sat, May 22, 2010 4:28am

Every fan of Shrek were were excited when the fourth movie was announced as a project. Seeing that the trio was a big success, an end to the story as a fourth movie was apparently thought as inevitable and luckily for the fans, the final chapter Shrek Forever After is a good ending for the story and it is as good as the first two films. The director of Shrek Forever After is Mike Mitchell, and he does not disappoint the audience with his skills.

Sat, May 22, 2010 6:25am

I think I like Accounting Ninja’s idea.

Accounting Ninja
Accounting Ninja
Sat, May 22, 2010 1:22pm

Thanks, ha. Could be a little dark for the kids though, what with all the sex, betrayal and violence. ;)

Mon, May 24, 2010 12:24am

Forget the kids. AN’s story has actual conflict! I like. B)