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“As much as I've enjoyed Pixar/Disney's features over...”

Written on: 19/05/2007 by Timix1 (33 reviews written)

Good Points
More comedic gold from arguably the best voice cast of any animated feature.

Bad Points
The third time isn't always the charm; the film fails to introduce any new characters worthy of the main players, and it suffers a bit from 'been-there, done-that' syndrome. Still, if you enjoyed the first two installments, there's no good reason to miss this one.

General Comments
As much as I've enjoyed Pixar/Disney's features over this past decade or so (last summer's CARS was no exception), I've always held Dreamworks' pair of SHREK flicks especially close to my heart. Maybe it's because I worship at Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy's feet as comedy gods who were the best things to ever happen to 'Saturday Night Live'. Maybe it's the films' inspired re-contextualizing of our beloved fairy tales. Maybe I just like sass-talking gingerbread men (and maybe I've said too much at this point). In any case, these films represent an interesting counter-point to Disney's output in much the same way Warner Bros.' 'Looney Tunes' did back in their day; their eyes are more keenly fixed on the (slightly more adult-themed) humour while never forgetting the importance of character development. And while I'm beginning to find the proliferation of pop culture references in most kid-themed films increasingly tiresome, I've always enjoyed SHREK's ability to make the most of its devilish in-jokes (the unfortunate naming of Lord Farquaad remains a high/low point). So needless to say, I was most anxious for a third helping of the ogre's shenanigans.

The plot: after Harold the frog king croaks (pun very much intended), Shrek and his furry sidekicks must track down Harold's only living heir to the throne or else our big green hero will be obligated to fulfill the royal duties himself. Meanwhile, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) rallies his own army into taking over the kingdom of Far, Far Away and claims the throne for himself. Amidst all the mayhem, Shrek must deal with the unwanted news that his wife Fiona (Diaz) is pregnant.

On several levels, SHREK THE THIRD does deliver the goods. The digital animation remains a luscious wonder to behold. The main players are as entertaining as ever (watching Murphy's Donkey and Banderas' Puss In Boots bicker is always a treat). Its recasting of fairy tale villains like Captain Hook and Stromboli as misunderstood underdogs with their own sides to their famous stories furthers the series' subversive take on these centuries-old writings.

That being said, the film suffers somewhat from 'been-there, done-that' syndrome. There's only so many times one can listen to Shrek complaining about his desire to return to his beloved swamp before you wish him that speedy return and be done with it. The comedic set pieces don't always deliver the laughs as successfully as before (the climactic rescue by a collective of fairy tale princesses - all gamely voiced by Saturday Night Live alums - falls especially flat). And it fails to introduce any new characters to rival the already plus-sized cast. Nothing against the talented Justin Timberlake (as Artie, the nerdy heir to the throne), but frankly he sticks out like a sore thumb here; Eric Idle fares slightly better as the scatter-brained Merlin.

Still, it's the movie's smaller comedic touches that kept me entertained and outweighed the rough patches, whether it's the sight/sound of CNN interviewer Larry King as Doris the Ugly Stepsister, seeing King Harold's coffin - a 'Ye Olde Foot Locker' shoe box - floating by on a lily pad, or my man Gingy's life flashing before his eyes in a side-splittling montage. Is SHREK THE THIRD ultimately a letdown? Perhaps, but movies never benefit from high expectations, and mine were sky-high in the first place. If you enjoyed the first two installments, there's no good reason to skip this third outing.

And at least this much can be said: it doesn't disappoint as much as the recently released SPIDERMAN 3 (but I'll save my thoughts on that movie for its own review).

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