Directed by: Chris Miller and Raman Hui
Premise: The third film in the Shrek franchise. When King Harold (voice of John Cleese) dies, Shrek (voice of Mike Myers), Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy), and Puss (voice of Antonio Banderas) travel across Far, Far Away to find the future King Arthur (voice of Justin Timberlake). At the same time, Prince Charming (voice of Rupert Everett) leads the villains of the fairy tale world in an attempt to take over the kingdom.
What Works: As a computer animated film, this Shrek film jettisons a lot of the pop culture references that have been plaguing this particular genre. They are still present, but most are presented in the background and support the humor, characters, and story in the foreground of the film rather than existing as an endless string of obnoxious inter-textual jokes, as they did in Shrek 2. This film is closer to the original in its tone and yet it is able to go into different areas. Where the second film took the engine of the first film and reversed it, thus rehashing old conflicts with (some) new jokes, Shrek the Third takes a new narrative approach and forces Shrek as a character into some newer territory.
What Doesn’t: Despite some new elements, much of this Shrek film feels largely rehashed from the previous installments. Despite having a baby on the way, Shrek the Third does not do much with the relationship between Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) and Shrek. Donkey and Puss go through the motions of their sidekick roles with no changes. Arthur, the only new addition to the core cast, does not really do anything and does not take any action to assert his heroism as Shrek did in the first film. The story has an inherent problem in that Shrek is attempting to avoid taking the role of King from his father in law, and so the whole story revolves around our hero trying to avoid responsibility rather than learning to accept it or cope with it. That is a difficult sell for the audience and the film never overcomes this tension. As a comedy, Shrek the Third just isn’t very funny. This is in part because, after two films, the ironic twists on traditional fairy tales have run their course and what was original, hip, and even subversive in the original Shrek is now passé and cliché.
Bottom Line: Overall, Shrek the Third is underwhelming. It is not bad and children will probably enjoy it, but the franchise has simply run out of steam.
Episode: #141 (May 20, 2007)