Starring (the voices of): Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Walt Dohm
Director: Mike Mitchell
Writer(s): Josh Klausner, Darren Lemke
Cinematography: Yong Duk Jhun
Original Score: Harry Gregson-Williams
Running Time: 93 Mins.
It has taken almost 10 years, 4 films, one Christmas special for Shrek to finally come to its long over-due conclusion proving to be a franchise that has run itself well and truly into the ground upon its third entry which took in a tired road movie style plot and desperately through endless pop-culture jokes at the screen which even now seem hugely outdated. So it was with great trepidation I approached this fourth, and allegedly final, part to the series, with little in the way of expectations I can safely say they were just about succeeded and almost all the flaws of number 3 banished in favour of a stream-lined back to basics story that harks back to the very first film’s riffing on the fairy tales themselves, an obvious hook but a mildly successful one never-the-less.
As with the past entries this sees Shrek having to learn a lesson, so while the traditional fairy-tale structure was adhered to, albeit in a skewed manner, in the original and its subsequent sequels throwing the body-swap story arc and issues of responsibility into the mix this time we have the alternate reality spin, engineered by a villainous Rumpelstiltskin (the best villain since John Lithgow’s Lord Farquaad) that sees Shrek relive a day in his live where he is once again a scary ogre minus the family and friends he has gained but no longer the tourist attraction we discover he has become in the films open…all of which means that predictably Shrek must learn another valuable lesson, so far so meh…
What piques Shrek Forever After above the banality of the plotting is the breezy pot-shots it takes at fairy-tales once more, pop culture references are largely left to a minimum with more time spent of character and with those we have become endeared to over the last 10 years, so that means more singing from donkey, a slightly out of shape Puss in Boots and extra screen time for the likes of Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man. So it’s hardly going to break the mould but is entertaining none-the-less, on the downside Fiona is as boring and bland as ever thanks to Cameron Diaz’s flat delivery and as Shrek Mike Myers faux Scotch accent has become simply unfunny and rather old for lack of a better word.
Oddly as the villain steals most of the funniest and most enjoyable scenes you realise that Shrek as a franchise ran out of steam many moons ago, it is telling that spending time with unknown characters is simply more fun than those that we should have grown to love more and more, a la Woody and Buzz whose exploits are keenly awaited in the coming weeks you are likely to wish Shrek and co. had called it a happily ever after long ago, something which simply goes to prove that you can’t get by on jokes alone.
So while this is, hopefully, likely the last we see of Shrek rest assured that the once great franchise will live on through a spin-off starring Puss in Boots, a prospect that proves much more welcome given the apparently different approach that will take in western sensibilities. A fresh and intriguing spin on the CGI animated film that suggests maybe Shrek should have veered a little further from its comfort zone in order to have a continued and cherished success, but alas we are left with two great films, a terrible third and some sense of redemption and finality in Shrek Forever After.
A mildly entertaning diversion and a fitting close to a franchise that has run out of steam and goodwill, some of the old magic is there but it is telling that it largely comes from the new characters, Dreamworks Animation Studios has moved on to bigger and better things, heres hoping Shrek really is now Shrek Foever After.