Original Shrek director Adam Adamson was famously nervous before the original Shrek premiered at the Cannes 2001 festival. As he said, the film commences with an animated naked green ogre in a mud bath farting and speaking with an incongruous Scottish accent, would anyone get it?
We must have eclectic tastes, because nearly three billion dollars in box office receipts later, we have the fourth and concluding film in the hugely successful franchise.
Like Toy Story, the characters created in the series are much loved and they deserve a satisfying and meaningful conclusion. Shrek 3 was not that film, riddled with popular culture references and with no discernible plot, it did well (of course) but did not advance the story.
The writing team under director Mike Mitchell have done a good job, they have found a way to essentially remake the original film but in a fresh believable way and bring the story to a satisfactory, even somewhat touching end.
Shrek (Myers) is bored and suffering a mid life crisis, domesticity has robbed him of his Ogre roar, nobody fears him and all he does is change nappies and mend the outhouse.
A new and marvellous character Rumpelstiltskin appears, who seduces Shrek with offers of his previous carefree bachelor life. Doing what he likes, when he likes, pitchforks, torches the whole nine yards. Offering his old life back, if he signs a magical contract giving up just one day of his early life. Shrek signs, not realizing that his birthday is the day chosen and in 24 hours he will cease to exist.
This is essentially “It’s a wonderful life” with Shrek able to see what the world would have been like without him, no wife, family or friends, it’s a neat trick.
We get to meet all the favourite characters, Donkey (Murphy), Puss in Boots (Banderas) and of course Fiona (Diaz), none of which recognize Shrek. He must now woo Fiona again, although she is much changed since she rescued herself from her tower prison. Now leading the Ogre resistance force, she is big on fighting skills and low on romance. Fiona does get her own spectacular heroine introduction but Puss in Boots steals all the laughs, cue slow slide down a kitty pole due to his ahem, slight weight gain.
One true love kiss is all that is required to put everything back as it was but you know it’s never going to be that easy.
The animation is of course excellent, the characterizations are better than ever and real care and love is evident in the treatment of the story and characters, all largely absent from the third episode. There is more heft to the story and whilst the sweetness and freshness of the first two is difficult to attain, this makes a genuine effort.
The broomstick ride through Rumpelstiltskin’s palace is largely unnecessary, unless you are watching in 3D and the necessity for all the troupe to dance at every opportunity as soon as the pied piper appears, does grate but these are minor quibbles.
Kids will love the action and parents will no doubt relate to the references to the sometime monotony of family life but the central message of not knowing what you have until you have lost it. Well, that is universal and not a bad theme for the series to end on.
Is it just me or does Rumpelstiltskin sound just like a soprano Jack Black, the part was voiced by Walt Dorhn, so obviously it is just me but he certainly is the cynical black heart of this film.
“Bring me my angry wig”, he screams at one point, to his constant retinue of witches.
Incidentally, this may be the end for Shrek but Puss in Boots may well be back in a spin off adventure. Certainly if you thought those kitty eyes could get no bigger, then this episode proves this not be true.
A cracking end to a highly successful series and while it may not have you grabbing the tissues a la Toy Story 3, it’s good to know someone cared enough to give the gang a rousing send off.
Recommended, even if you hated Shrek 3