Shrek Forever After
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Written by: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke (screenplay)
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas
Outside of Pixar, the Shrek franchise is probably the most famous digital animation escapade. The first Shrek is widely considered a classic, an uproarious send-up of the Disney fairy tale. The subsequent entries have all had their share of laughs, but none have matched the first one for blending heart-warming story with beautifully done satire.
The same is true with Shrek Forever After, the fourth and (they say) final installment in the series. This one finds Shrek (Mike Myers) discontent and emasculated as the head of his new ogre family. His first part in the movie begins with an intentionally redundant montage sequence showing the repetitiveness of his every day life with his three kids and his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz.)
The rest of the movie follows Shrek as he pays for his discontent by making a fool’s bargain with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) and trades one day in his life for one day as an unhinged ogre. The impish Stiltskin tricks him, taking back the day he was born and sending him to a world where he never existed. From here on out, it’s a not so wonderful life.
Many parallels can be drawn to this film in the series and Frank Capra’s classic film. In fact, the message of the movie is the exact same.
None of his old friends are living good lives. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is pulling a prison carriage and being whipped by witches when they want him to sing a different song. Puss ‘N Boots (Antonio Banderas) has let himself go, now a plump, lazy cat reduced to looking forward to being brushed twice a day. Fiona is perhaps the best out of them all, now leading an ogre resistance against Stiltskin and his band of witches.
As far as visuals in this movie go, nothing is really overwhelmingly excellent. The character designs are all adequate and in place, but aside from an exciting escape scene and the final battle scene, the 3D isn’t put to much use at all. In fact, the 3D battles in any film other than Avatar all seem to be the exact same. Movies like this are better served staying innovative within the narrative.
The biggest redeemer in Forever After are the characters. This franchise has always had that going for it, and here is no different. Along with the usual four, Rumplestiltskin is a wonderfully menacing addition. Voiced by one of the Animation story editors, Walt Dohrn, he prowls the screen with a Napoleon complex for the ages.
Myers, Diaz, Murphy, and Banderas all bring their characters to life with zesty, if not so original, voice work. When you have big stars, and they’ve worked together on previous films in the same franchise, it’s not likely to be crap. The thing that hurts this film the most is how safe it is, and though there is talent, none of it really goes anywhere.
As far as series’ go, you could do much worse than Shrek. The people at Dreamworks know what they’re doing, and this is their signature franchise. However, as always, the animated pixels are better left to Pixar.