Directed by: Mike Mitchell Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Walt Dohrn Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins Rating: PG Release Date: May 21, 2010
PLOT: Everybody’s favorite ugly green giant named Shrek (Myers) messes everything up when he signs a deal with Rumpelstiltskin (Dohrn) who originally promises to change his life for only one day. Affected in the process are his wife Fiona (Diaz), their kids, and Donkey (Murphy).
WHO'S IT FOR?: Children who eat sugary cereal, because they are used to imbibing such crap, and probably with the approval of their caretakers. But to be fair to the Trix rabbit, at least the puzzles on his box’s backside are more intellectually involving than this vacuous fourth Shrek movie. This movie could maybe amuse some kids, but there’s no such thing as a mental toothbrush.
EXPECTATIONS: Sitting down for another Shrek movie in a theatre full of wee-ones glowing with excitement, I was very open to the possibility of even a third sequel being a humorous and overall worthy experience.
Mike Myers as Shrek: As explored by a lot of other movies, being a father is hard work. Also shared by practically every children’s movie, selfishness can leads to someone’s demise, and can certainly hurt the ones around them. Shrek learns this very elementary lesson in a dull course of events in which many things happen around him, including the attempts at “humor.” Like the film that tries to justify his existence for a fourth time, he hardly progresses as a character, this time reminiscing about the good ol’ days of actually being able to terrify folk (instead of becoming a well-known hero). Fart. Yawn. Score: 3
Eddie Murphy as Donkey: How do you mute a persistent donkey that sings? Do you have to poison its waffles, or just take away his iPod? The once charming chatterbox that is the cleverly named character Donkey has now become an unlovable nuisance, especially since he is the catalyst for much of the movie’s idiotic references to pop culture (especially pop ballads). His undying love for waffles here is continued, something that was funny in the first Shrek, (“In the morning, I’m making waffles!”) but it's all syrup and no batter here. Score: 2
Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona: The plague of weak characterization affects Fiona the most. She was once a beautiful woman (even in green form) with a great sense of humor, and as Donkey reminisces, she made birds explode when they sang. But in the bizarro-dimension of which the new Shrek story takes place, she’s a dull warrior who doesn’t even bother to fight for our attention, never mind any sort of emotion considering the (repeat) romance that must be rekindled between her and Shrek. Score: 3
Walt Dohrn as Rumpelstiltskin: A character with no existence in a previous Shrek movie, he catches on quickly that in this type of movie that mediocrity is encouraged, and that flamboyance can indeed eventually become unsurprising. The freshest element of this character new to the now dull world of Shrek is that everyone knows his name – it’s an act of mercy from the filmmakers that we don’t have to deal with a story aligning with the fairytale we’ve heard hundreds of times before. Score: 3
TALKING: Sigh. In one scene, Donkey says to Gingerbread Man, “What are you talkin’ bout, cracka?” I’m hoping that this line flies entirely over the heads of the halflings who do see this movie, especially since the subtext involves a character voiced by an African American saying such a thing to a character voiced by a Caucasian. A loaded cast with unrecognizable voices provides other bits of dialogue, but you won’t notice Regis Philbin, Jane Lynch, Kathy Griffin and others until their names are revealed in the closing credits. Score: 1
SIGHTS: You’re not a putz, right? Don’t see this in IMAX. The animation is decent, and the 3-D is already a stretch when it comes to what this movie requires. The advantage of the third dimension is only offered when the movie has a third person perspective during a couple of chase scenes, but these moments are few and far between. Other than making you pay more money to see the same bad movie, one disagreeable thing about 3-D is that you can’t lean your head sideways on your fist while trying to stay focused, something I tried to do a lot during this experience. Score: 5
SOUNDS: Whether it’s a part of some sort of desperation to seem as important as the first movie, or if it’s meant to be a little bow on the entire franchise, another modern cover of “I’m A Believer” is heard once again. This time, pop group Weezer is in charge of making the Monkees’ original sound better by comparison. The rest of the soundtrack is full of other pop standards, most of them covered briefly in the movie (The Pied Piper plays a Beastie Boys song on his flute. Jesus wept.) In a fleeting moment that is semi-amusing, Puss In Boots sings “One Love” by Bob Marley on his kitty git-box. Score: 3
BEST SCENE: Puss In Boots doesn’t deliver all the time, but everyone in the audience (including myself) laughed when he whipped out the big innocent kitty eyes. Why? Cats are funny. And fat cats are best.
ENDING: The cheering heard by the characters during another concluding celebration is not shared by the audience. Then there is a recap of all of the past Shrek events.
QUESTIONS: What is the official title of this movie? It used to be Shrek Forever After, (which is indicated by the movie itself), but is now being billed as Shrek: The Final Chapter. I believe their brilliant marketing campaign said it best: What the Shrek just happened?!
REWATCHABILITY: Only to get a more exact number of how many pop-culture references there are in the entire film.
A long time ago in a land far, far away there was a big monster the color of money that learned to use the power allotted to it by high-quality animation and a sparkling cast for a positive cause. It survived in a competitive climate of similar looking adversaries because of the unique wit it had been blessed with by its hardworking nature. But now, things have changed as this ogre of a series has started to suffer from massive brain rot, possibly from the indulgence of its own material, as it can now only survive by making petty potty humor or cheap and completely random references to popular songs, movies, etc. Now, with its fourth, and apparently final chapter, this beast that is too self-conscious to even settle on one name can only cannibalize itself, which in turn forces the monster to release onto the world a waste so unbearable that it would barely satisfy as a TV-spinoff.
To be certain, I am not talking about the recent horror gross-out flick The Human Centipede, but Shrek Forever After, another movie that explains why recycling one’s own material can be an idea with insufferable results for the audience. Using a leading cast of mostly currently irrelevant talent, this new movie gives up on the original’s goal of not pandering its material to children, and lets rip as many fart jokes and nods to popular culture (I counted 43, give or take a few) as it can fit. The humor that once made Shrek fun has now become magic-less, and the anachronistic charm is completely desperate.
The creative laziness of having something like walking jukebox Donkey rifle through an iTunes playlist of “Best Pop Ballads” is also detected in the story, which itself has opted to repeat the key plot elements of the first Shrek movie in an odd form of self-plagiarism. It is not a nod to the origins of these characters but a tactic that would only be fitting were this endeavor part of some reboot.
Perhaps all of the stale-cookie nature of Shrek shouldn’t actually be surprising, especially considering the borrowing tactics that are at the foundation of the Shrek universe. Consider the characters’ names – Donkey, for example. Perhaps a character receives such an obvious name to become extremely accessible to children. With the waste that is Shrek Forever After, now it seems like this is more evident of a lurking, menacing lack of imagination that hasn’t been excreted fully onto the world of Far, Far Away until now.
FINAL SCORE: 2/10