Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Premise: The fourth feature film in the Shrek series. While going through a midlife crisis, Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin (voice of Walt Dohrn) to live a day as though he’d never existed. After the wish is granted, Shrek discovers that Rumpelstiltskin has tricked him and he has a limited amount of time to undo the contract before he disappears permanently.
What Works: Shrek Forever After recaptures a lot of what was fun about the original film and it is much better than the two previous sequels. There is a maturity and intelligence to this new Shrek, as it steps away from some of the pop culture references that a lot of other animated films have crutched on for the past decade and reinvests in its characters. As a result, Shrek Forever After is able to take advantage of one of the keys to the success of the Shrek franchise: that the idealized world of fairy tales might have its own short comings. Shrek Forever After uses this premise quite well early on in film and the title character has an emotional reality that hasn’t been seen since the first film. The story of Shrek Forever After minimizes a lot of the familiar supporting cast, and by isolating Shrek in this way the narrative forces him to be a heroic and active character in ways that he hasn’t been since the original film.
What Doesn’t: There is an inherent problem with Shrek Forever After’s approach. While isolating Shrek and returning the focus to him does make for a better story, it also squanders the rich world and supporting cast that the franchise has created. This departure makes Shrek’s predicament in this fourth film look less like a natural progression of an ongoing storyline and more like a gimmick to justify making another movie. And despite some closer attention to character and story, it is hard for Shrek Forever After to overcome its sense of familiarity. Even as the film gets back to the roots of what made the original Shrek such a fun and imaginative take on fairy tales, the whole thing is very familiar. This is a franchise that ran out of steam two movies ago and a lot of the film plays like outtakes and leftovers of previous Shrek adventures.
Bottom Line: Fans of the Shrek series will want to check out this latest film and it does make for fun family entertainment, but Shrek Forever After is a far cry from the surprise and fun of the original film.
Episode: #291 (June 6, 2010)