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Shrek 3

3 seems to be a big number for Shrek. The intervals between ShrekShrek 2 and Shrek 3 have been three years each. It’s the third part of a money-making franchise that saw Shrek 2 becoming the “3rd highest grossing film of all time”, according to their official website. It’s also the third blockbuster threequel to be released here recently, hot on the heels of third installments in the Spider-Man and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises.

If so, 4 writers may be 1 too many for Shrek 3. Especially if that 4th is Chris Miller, who’s also the new guy directing this beloved perversion of fairy tales, taking over from Andrew Adamson.

At least that’s how you might feel if you were expecting a continuation of the excellent Shrek formula: an engaging storyline, lots of wickedly clever jokes and puns on popular culture, and jabs at fairy tales done by an A-list voice acting team, and superb animation.

At Shrek 1 and 2, audiences were laughing out loud with every passing pop culture reference and fairy tale jab, and it was a truly fantastic, funny movie experience that thrilled audiences to no end, and raking in $3 billion at the box office, making it the top animated franchise of all time. In the first film, Shrek, the crusty hermit of an ogre set off reluctantly with an offbeat sidekick (the Donkey) to rescue a princess who was awaiting her prince charming. The twist on the beautiful protagonists tale and inside jokes were brilliant. The second one was an even more madcap outing with the ogre adding another sidekick, going on another fantasy misadventure and quest to prove his true love for the princess that he had rescued in the first film.

Can you blame Dreamworks Animation for squeezing out another story, hoping to earn more of the paper that’s the shading of the ogre before the story heads off to become a Broadway musical?

Unfortunately, it seems that Shrek 3 has lost the magic touch of its predecessors. The 4 have given us a storyline that’s not only dull and plodding, there is hardly any laughable material and it lacks virtually all the imagination, wit and magic that has made the previous 2 such comical fun. It’s as if the writers have run out of comic inspiration, leaving us with an insipid tale of life-lessons and jokes that try too hard, such as when the princess and the ladies gather around and joke about Fiona’s pregnancy and the unborn baby.

Basically King Harold (John Cleese) dies and the heir to the Kingdom of Far Far Away is his son-in-law Shrek (Mike Myers), who wants nothing to do with sitting on the throne. He hears that his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) has a cousin called Artie (Justin Timberlake) making him next in line for the throne, and thus sets off to find him, along with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss-In-Boots (Antonio Banderas), fully intent on dragging him back to Far Far Away and making him take the crown. Meanwhile, Fiona is pregnant, and like every other expectant father in TV/movie history, Shrek is reluctant and frightened to acknowledge his impending parental obligations.

Meanwhile, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), is fuming from being unseated by someone so inferior to him, and is enlisting all the fairy tale villains in the land to join him in invading Far Far Away, so that he can get back at the other characters who have found their happily ever afters, and secure his own.

While Adamson’s story has elements that would work, the scriptwriters have n’t developed it enough, resulting in a movie that lacks the hilarious pop culture references, great character development and banter, and the creative stories that were in the previous 2.

A Shrek quest promises hilarious dialogue and incredible experiences that will befall the traveling trio – Shrek, Donkey and Puss-In-Boots – but not this time round. Most of the time, Shrek is either giving Artie moral lessons, or having nightmares about little Shreks, in particular one well-executed scene where Shrek dreams about being surrounded by innumerable ogre babies. The scriptwriters didn’t give Donkey and Puss-In-Boots much air time at all, and that’s a bad call, because they are at times, the funniest characters around, as evident from Shrek 1 and 2.

It is certainly also disappointing that there are not much hilarious moments involving the threesome throughout the duration of the movie. Most of the laughs came at the start of the movie, when Prince Charming is shown as a dinner theater actor. When Monty Python’s Eric Idle (as Merlin) switches Donkey and Puss’ personalities, it draws more than a few chuckles and laughs, especially when they do their classic battle stance, in each other’s bodies. Of course, the scene where King Harold dies takes the vote as the most hilarious, and I’m quite certain that there won’t be another death scene quite like that, with the audience bending over in laughter at the King’s pre-death antics. However, I’m lost as to why they had a cover of Paul McCartney’s Meet the Robinsons. Or the singing frogs that looked more like a rip-off from“Live and Let Die” as the funeral song.

All is not lost, however, because once again, the animation is top-notch. Co-director Raman Hui deserves a pat on the back for the superb computer animation design from his team.

The voice-overs (from a stellar cast of actors) also help to make the movie better than the script deserves. The awesome turn that was added to the Snow White’s gift with animals is also very clever and serves as one of the better parts of the movie.

At the end of the day, Shrek fans will no doubt still enjoy the movie, but other movie-goers will be let down at what could’ve been good, but turned out to be nothing more than a franchise stretched too thin.

In this case, the third time’s not a charm.



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