shrek the third (2007)

Hoo boy, well, here it is folks, the moment every kid in America has probably been waiting for for quite some time. Yes, there's a new Shrek movie out there, and he's back with all his pals from Donkey to Puss in Boots to Fiona and all the rest. But, before you run out there to thrill to a new fractured fairytale adventure, consider this ... could you stand to just wait until DVD? Because, I'm laying it on the line, that is really where this flick belongs. You remember all those cruddy 90's direct-to-video releases of The Land Before Time Part 14 and Aladdin 5 1/2? They weren't ... bad per se, but they weren't anything to get excited about, they were just the characters from the theatrical films doing the same kind of stuff you'd already seen them do in the theatrical films. Well, there ya go, that's exactly what the new Shrek the Third is. Second in line of this summer's parade of trilogy-making third installments, this one fails to even register as something I'd advise seeing in a theater. Sure, Spider-Man 3 had its rough spots and cringe-worthy scenes, but that's only because it was trying to go in all sorts of different directions, trying to be one way in one spot, trying a little something different in another, it was ... y'know ... trying. Shrek the Third plays it safe by doing ... nothing, and, to me, that's an even bigger let-down than a failure. 

Let's just be honest here, the first Shrek is a darn good time. It's got plenty of laughs, and even some tender moments where we could get some real affection for the characters. The second film continued the tradition, while not quite as good as the first, it still managed to serve of plenty of inventive laughs and a great adventure story (even if that fairy godmother was annoying as hell). Now, success has killed the franchise. The filmmakers realize they have a built-in audience of kids ready to gobble up tickets, toys, t-shirts, video games and whatever else is thrown their way involving Ogres. With this comfort, they just sort of go through the motions trying to mimic what was so genuine in the other films. The humor has absolutely been drained from the picture, every ounce. I don't think it got one actual laugh out of me, maybe a few sight gag chuckles in the first few minutes, but that was all I could say for it. The film knew what it had to do to appeal to the audience and it hits it all like a checklist, but it doesn't feel like it's at all happy or excited about doing any of it. Where's the fun of those first two films? Where's the comedic banter between Shrek, Donkey and Puss in Boots? In this flick they pretty much agree with each other on just about everything which more or less results in every bit of dialogue in the film going something like "come on Shrek, this is gonna be great" "yeah Shrek, it sure is" "you're right guys, I'm an ogre!". Sounds exciting, right? Honestly this thing feels more like the pilot to a Shrek T.V. series (which it may actually be) than a movie. In that way it's akin to Jurassic Park III, which is not a flattering comparison for ANY film. I've always wondered what it is about third installments that make them so inherently bad. I mean, the big hurdle should be the second film, right? That's the one where you have to reignite the conflict in the story and worry about continuing the character arcs in a believable way. The third one should be cake! But, hey, maybe that's the real issue, do creative teams throw everything they have into the second film in an attempt to top the first, then think they have it all down to formula by the third and just breeze on through it? Because, from what I've seen so far this summer, that's probably the case. I mean it's not often that a third film can even hold a candle to its predecessors (unless we count Revenge of the Sith, but I don't, seeing as how it's actually part 6) But look at it, Return of the Jedi is nowhere near its first films, neither is Back to the Future Part III, nor X-Men: The last Stand, the list goes on and on. Even that third Lord of the Rings flick wasn't as good as the first two (though it seems many disagree with me on that). Does the spark simply fade after two films? (or in the case of Shrek the Third, die altogether?). I don't know, but I'm going to have plenty of opportunities this summer to ponder it. Ok, back on topic though, which will be extremely difficult since this film is so paper-thin, with so little substance, that there's really nothing to talk about. The plot of the thing is that Shrek is supposed to become the king, but doesn't want to so sets off to find the young Arthur (King Arthur) to take his place. While he's gone Prince Charming from the second flick shows up and locks all the princesses up in trying to take over the kingdom. That's ... all that really happens. I don't know if this film is very long or not, but it all seems to breeze by in about 1/2 hour. 

I think it can all be summed up to the simple fact that no one is having any fun. The visuals aren't fun, they're rendered with too much complication, trying to look "real" (where they fail) instead of trying to look pleasingly comedic like the first two films. There's just something off about the way it looks, the dull colors? the clutter in the way they try to detail the characters? I don't know, but it makes me appreciate Pixar films even more, and moreso that their new film Ratatouille will hopefully blow this one out of the water. None of the actors in this film seem to have any fun either. The performances are dull as can be and give off the feeling that they were looking over their shoulders occasionally during the recording sessions for their paychecks. And that's the reason Shrek the Third exists, let's make no bones about it, the film was created for the sole purpose of generating revenue for the film industry, a task I'm sure it will perform well. It's nice to see the cash flow in that will hopefully be redistributed to a few better films by visionary directors, but the pessimist in me says "no". No, it will probably go to fund an Over the Hedge or Madagascar sequel and another Shrek flick. Ah and line the pockets of Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy, all of whom seem to have dropped out of filmmaking (especially Meyers) since this whole thing started. Sure, Murphy and Diaz have been in a few things since then but not at the same frequency they were before. Nope, just come on in wearing your pajamas to do a few weeks of voice-work every three years and pick up a cool $20 million. Perfect gig, too bad we, the audience, have to foot the bill and you can't even give us a quality product that looks like it had an ounce of thought put into it. The direction is non-existent, it's not even noticeable, the film's look is, as I said before, similar to the other two films, but bland and uninteresting. The script is a dud. Shrek on another adventure, a couple of cheesy lines here and there that seem to have been cooked up in 5 minutes at 2 in the morning as the screenwriters called it a day and went to bed. There's nothing of substance, nothing of emotion, nothing remarkable at all except that they were able to find a few things that worked in the other flicks and give it a go at imitating them. I think I read somewhere that many members of the creative team behind the films have been switched around on this one and boy does it show. The real aspect I lament about it is that they didn't even keep the aspects of the story that gave the series a nice, unified feel. There were many familiar aspects I would have liked to see come back. The Disney-parody with the storybook at the beginning, the dance party at the end; those were fun parts of the last two films, they don't require any thought, just do them, but they couldn't even give me that. And do they replace them with anything inventive? No, they just leave them out. That's the essence of this film's cruddiness, instead of trying to invent new things or do anything different, they just leave out everything but the bare bones. The flick is a whole lot of nothing.

So, yes, skip it and see it on DVD, maybe not even then. This film has no reason to be made, and no reason to be watched, unless you've got a kid who's hungry for more Shrek. Leave 'em at home, let 'em play outside this summer, and when Christmas rolls around with the DVD, pick it up for them. They'll enjoy seeing some more Shrek and you'll enjoy not being subjected to it. For anyone over the age of 8, this isn't even worth your time. As I said before, it's not bad as in offensively bad or that it does something to tarnish the other films, it just does nothing. It's as devoid of any and all creativity as I've seen come out of a Hollywood studio in quite some time. No, I'm sure the Pirates of the Caribbean flick will be no masterpiece, nor will Transformers or Live Free or Die Hard, but at least they might look like someone gave a damn when they made them. Shrek the Third utterly fails. Skip it.

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