by Jeff Meyers
Did the world really need a fourth Shrek movie? Absolutely not. Does 3-D make it more Shrektastic? Nope. But who can say no to $2 billion? Though Mike Myers is rumored to regret the Faustian bargain he struck with Dreamworks to play everyone's favorite farting ogre (he's one of the least funny characters in the films), the comic actor is weeping all the way to the bank.
Allegedly the last of the franchise, Shrek Forever After isn't as scattershot as the last installment, but it does labor through a mostly laughless setup before settling into a familiar groove.
Living with his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and his trio of tykes, Shrek (Myers) discovers that happily ever after isn't all it's cracked up to be. Between the grinding routine of domestic bliss, the emasculation of fatherhood, and his celebrity persona, the ogre fears he's lost his edge. Nostalgic for his days of independence, a time when he struck terror into the hearts of villagers everywhere, Shrek strikes a deal with the conniving Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn): one perfect day of ogre-ish ransacking in exchange for the day he was born. This sends him into a parallel universe where Donkey (Eddie Murphy) doesn't know who he is, Puss 'n' Boots (Antonio Banderas) has become a fat tub of lard, and Fiona is the warrior leader of ogre rebellion against Far, Far Away's despotic ruler Rumpelstiltskin. See, it turns out this malignantly magical pipsqueak was thwarted from taking over the kingdom when Shrek originally freed Fiona. Now he has 24 hours to regain the trust of old friends and win Fiona's heart, otherwise he'll disappear forever, having never been born.
To say the plot is convoluted for the wee ones is an understatement — my 4-1/2-year-old had a running monologue of questions. More tragically, screenwriters Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke never creatively exploit their It's a Wonderful Life concept, and most of the film looks and feels like a rehash of sight gags, musical montages and self-reflexive plot complications that you've seen before. Once again, Donkey and Puss land the only mentionable jokes, and the cast does well keeping things lively. But the animation style is starting to look long in the tooth, and the 3-D does little to spruce things up. When you compare it to Dreamworks' visually stunning How to Train Your Dragon, the nine-year-old franchise feels dated.
Jeff Meyers writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.