Movie Review: "Shrek Forever After"

I headed into the theater and took my seat expecting to head home afterward with thoughts of how much Shrek Forever After sucked.  Since Shrek the Third seemed forced and mostly unforgettable to me, I had already felt that the Shrek franchise had lasted far longer than it was welcomed.  I was pleased to hear that this Shrek installment would be the last (next to another TV production), but was concerned how Dreamworks could keep the series creative and fresh.

Fortunately, Shrek Forever After maintains the formula that has kept Shrek so successful while providing a refreshing new plot that doesn’t just seem like an old sitcom fishing for new storylines.  Shrek Forever After did however have to create a new storyline that wasn’t just a continuation of the past film.  Ok, the filmmakers try to stake claim that they have always attempted to keep the Shrek series a continuation from film to film, and they do at the start of the film, but were resulted into doing a “what if…” storyline.  Surprisingly enough writers Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke were able to create a decent plot with a Back to the Future meets A Christmas Carol feel to it.

Confused a little?  Shrek, voiced by non-other than MIKE MYERS, has become a family man with three babies and a loving wife Fiona, CAMERON DIAZ, with a village full of friends that have all learned to love this jolly green ogre.  Now after doing the same old daily grind, Shrek has become fed-up with his new life as a town celebrity.  It’s almost like a mid-life crisis for Shrek where he reminisces the good times before he was a scary giant ogre that all the village people were afraid of ever before he save Princess Fiona.  After everything blows up at his children’s first birthday party, Shrek happens to run in to conniving, evil Rumpelstiltskin who has a devilish plan already conceived for the ogre.

Rumplestiltskin, WALT DOHRN (Head of Story for Shrek Forever After), grants Shrek a day where everyone would be scared of him once again so Shrek could act like he used to before he became so domesticated.  This comes at a price however.  In order to receive his wish, Rumplestiltskin needs a day of Shrek’s. “Give a day, get a day”.  Rumple smoothly talks his way into getting Shrek to give him a day when he was young and helpless so he could stop Shrek from ever rescuing Fiona and saving the kingdom of Far Far Away.  This would allow Rumplestiltskin to “save” the kingdom and taking it over, but at what costs?  Shrek is now stuck in an alternate universe where he has never met Fiona and the ogres are hunted by evil witches, whom all look like they are from the west.   His friends Donkey and Puss in Boots no longer recognize him.  Above all else, his family doesn’t exist.  Shrek must now figure a way to help save the ogres along with Fiona while trying to decipher how to reverse his curse before he disappears forever.

The overall concept of the film is actually kind of basic if you narrow it down, but it’s still done in an incredible creative way.  Rumplestiltskin is definitely their best villain yet.  He has so many layers to him that really create a one-of-a-kind character.  Don’t attempt to figure out who voices him though as Walt Dohrn is usually behind the scenes in story development for Dreamworks.  His character provides a unique twist on the Rumplestiltskin fairytale as the Shrek franchise is so popular with accomplishing.

I was worried however that with the initial Shrek film being nine years old that the graphics and general look of the film would be outdated.  Well, I was wrong.  Shrek Forever After is by far the most beautiful Shrek with great detail and depth that is on par with any new CGI film today.  I knew right from the first close-up of Rumplestiltskin that the technology has advanced rather than just using the same renderings they were using years ago.

A lot of the scenery and characters had to be changed for this film too.  We are now in a world where Rumple is in charge and everything isn’t as lively as it was before Shrek enters the alternate universe.  Instead of everything being green and lively, the scenery changed to more gold and yellows.  There’s also a new castle and underground scenes that bring a new take on the land of Far Far Away.  Each character was redesigned to establish a less domesticated feel making each character appear that life has gotten rougher.  Donkey, EDDIE MURPHEY, has longer hair that appears to be a little ratty now.  He appears to be wilder as he’s now a slave to the witches.  Puss in Boots is more adorable than ever as he has gained a couple, or several, pounds.  His new lifestyle with Fiona has made him a lazy fat cat that receives a brushing two times a day.  Puss’s days as a flexible fighting cat are in the past now.  Fiona even has a new barbaric Xena style to her with tattered hair and warrior garb.

This latest installment, and still hopefully the last, still provides excellent character development and interaction with each other.  Donkey is now just a side character more so than a sidekick/supporting role.  I don’t know how I felt about this, but Eddie Murphy’s lines are still hilarious.  The film is still filled with witty one-liners that are superior to Shrek the Third and on the same level as the first movie.  Its fine that Donkey and Puss in Boots are more side characters as this film is more just about Shrek and the lessons he must learn.  Besides, these characters don’t even know who Shrek is for the majority of the film.

It was nice to see a land with more ogres and how they would interact with one another as a community.  This was a new angle that hasn’t really been touched on in the previous films.  Another big noticeable change was a shift more toward a story than place.  I appreciated the telling of Shrek’s new battle with himself and how he must overcome rather than just providing a bunch of gags relating to classic fairytales.  Don’t worry, those classic gags and jokes are still there keeping this final film still feeling like the rest.

The 3-D aspect was exactly what I expected from a new 3-D film.  It works for the films advantage and creates another element that I personally enjoy.  Apparently Ebert disagrees with 3-D, but I have already made my feelings known on the SoCalThrills Blog (click here to read the blog).  Remember, most of these films factor in the 3-D as they create the scenes.  There are few fly-through scenes that could make some people sick if they are already weary to 3-D.  However, I think the filmmakers today a doing a good job not making the 3-D elements seem too gag-like that you would find in a theme park attraction.

I’m sure it helps that I expected this film to suck royally, but I did notice improvements in the story development, gags, and graphics.  Shrek Forever After was what I think the Shrek franchise has always been about, and that’s fun!  It’s a short one, but it’s paced well with continuous light-hearted jokes to supplement the dark serious scenes to make it a fun little moviegoing experience.  I don’t think that Shrek Forever After is doing anything revolutionary here.  It’s still Shrek after all.  I was tired of the series after two and was even more irritated when I heard about a fourth, but I seriously have no problem with this film after I saw it.  I’m not to say that everyone will enjoy it.  I a
m not going to recommend Shrek Forever After to most of the people I know, but that’s partly due to so many other films currently out that would better suit their tastes.

While some animated films have somewhat childish lessons to learn, Shrek Forever After deals with a theme that is more relatable to an adult standpoint.  Shrek isn’t a franchise for everyone though.  You really have to just want to let loose and relax.  If you are capable of that, perhaps this is a film for you.  If you are an adult with a screaming 2-year-old, please stay clear.  There’s nothing worse than getting commentary from a loud 2-year-old behind me that won’t stop making strange noises who can’t even comprehend what was happening on the screen!  Thank you.

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