As a fan of the first two Shrek films, even I can attest to the notion that DreamWorks is really pushing their luck with a third installment. Hollywood has proven time and again that the old saying, “quit while you’re ahead,” means nothing to them. One can really only approach any film that ends with a “3” (or variation thereof) with cautious optimism at best. Shrek the Third delivers exactly what fans want, and nothing more. It is the same type of energetic, and often edgy, humor that crosses all kinds of demographics. The franchise has carved out some great characters and they add some new ones to the mix here. However, the Shrek series has officially been stretched as far as it can go with this installment. DreamWorks, I beg of you, quit while you’re ahead.
Far, Far Away is a busy place these days. As the film opens, Prince Charming (voiced by Rupert Everett), who was so close to getting the throne in Shrek 2, has been reduced to dinner theatre and in general is made a mockery of. Because Shrek (voiced by Myers) and Fiona (voiced by Diaz) are now married, Shrek is next in line to be king. The opportunity may come sooner than Shrek thinks as Fiona’s father, King Harold (voiced by John Cleese), has fallen very ill. Harold’s final words instruct Shrek and friends to track down Artie (voiced by Justin Timberlake), a young man who can take the throne if Shrek feels himself unfit for the job. Shrek, Fiona, Donkey (voiced by Murphy), and Puss in Boots (voiced by Banderas) set out to track down the lad. Meanwhile, Prince Charming is assembling as many fairy tale rejects as he can to plan an attack on Shrek and claim the throne he feels he deserves.
DreamWorks must have about soiled their drawers when they found out about the plot to Happily N’ever After, released earlier this year (if you saw it, congratulations, it was just you and me). Why? Only because the plots are essentially identical. The difference is that Shrek knows its crowd and plays them like a piano. There are rapid fire gags aplenty, and the film works more often than not. King Harold’s death scene is wickedly hilarious and jokes ranging from nonsensical violence to sex play as well as they did in the first two flicks. What doesn’t work are most of Prince Charming’s scenes, Justin Timberlake’s total lack of interest, and a poorly executed subplot involving Fiona corroborating with other female fairy tale characters in an effort to stop Charming. I find it oh-so-curious that Led Zeppelin, who for years wouldn’t license a song to anyone, has chosen to let Cadillac and Shrek crucify their tunes (“Immigrant Song,” in this case).
If you liked the first two Shrek adventures, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here. There’s a slight air of desperation to be found, but the kiddies won’t care. This seems like the right spot to end the series since, as “third” movies go; this is about as good as it could be. Better to end it now before Shrek goes to space or time travels.
Length: 93 Minutes
Rating: PG for some crude humor, suggestive content and swashbuckling action.
Theatrical Release: May 18, 2007
Directed by: Chris Miller & Raman Hui.
Written by: Peter S. Seaman & Jeffrey Price & Chris Miller & Aron J. Warner.
Cast: Mike Myers (voice), Eddie Murphy (voice), Cameron Diaz (voice), Antonio Banderas (voice), Julie Andrews (voice), John Cleese (voice)