Shrek Forever After

Director    Mike Mitchell
Starring    Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Craig Robinson, Jane Lynch
Release    21 MAY (US) 2 JUL (UK)    Certificate PG
4 stars


30th June 2010

Shrek has been the flagship franchise of DreamWorks Animation for nigh on a decade now, constantly pulling at the coat tails of Pixar like a child desperate to be listened to. But after the underwritten, overflowing Shrek The Third failed to live up to the first two, DreamWorks may have thought about milking another potential franchise dry and retiring this old ogre back to his muddy puddle.

However, Deuce Bigalow director Mike Mitchell takes the reins for Shrek's final outing - trimming the fat, not re-hiring Justin Timberlake, putting the series back on track and sticking to what made the original such a crowd-pleaser in the first place.

[gallery]Growing tired of his mundane, monotonous daily routine of being a father of three, husband and a local celebrity, Shrek pines for his old life - scaring the locals, wallowing in filth and being, well, more ogre-y. So when fairy tale shit-stirrer Rumpelstiltskin offers him 24 hours of peace, without hassle from family, friends or demanding fat kids, he's more than happy to give up a day from his past for this quiet day of solitude. The problem is, the conniving red-headed takes Shrek's birthday, thus plunging Far, Far Away into an alternate universe where Rumpel is king, witches hunt ogres, Fiona is tough leader of an ogre uprising and no one knows who Shrek is.

What made Shrek so original and appealing were its in-jokes - poking fun at fairytales and combining them all together in one beautifully animated movie. This worked well enough for the first two but the third outing got bogged down in an overcrowded script, relying too much on poor, contemporary pop culture references for laughs, rather than well-written sight jokes and old-fashioned gags and fairytale piss-takes.

Director Mitchell and screenwriters Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke have wiped the slate clean for the fourth and final outing. The alternate Far, Far Away allows them free reign on Shrek's world, starting afresh with everything - Donkey works pulling carts and Puss-In-Boots is the overweight, pampered pet of Fiona. And Shrek is a nobody.

Partially inspired by It's A Wonderful Life, the crowd-pleasing, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone" message couldn't be more glaringly obvious, with the 3D effects slapping it across your face. It's a decent enough message for a cinema full of kids though, and for once, the addition of the third dimension doesn't cheapen the movie, adding a little depth and substance without resorting to gimmicks.

All the usual suspects are present and correct, with Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy continuing to use Shrek as their biggest source of income. But once again, it's Murphy's Donkey that runs away with the show. Despite reduced screen time, he still manages to get the most laughs and begs the question why he can't be this funny when he's not voicing a jive-talking donkey.

Avoiding the publicity-seeking voice casts of the past, the likes of Craig Robinson and Jane Lynch are very welcome. However, it's storyboard artist Walt Dorhn who deserves the plaudits, voicing the eccentric Rumpelstiltskin, coming across a little like Jim Carrey's Riddler and providing him with added charisma, making him more than just a generic villain.

Shrek Forever After is easily the best of the franchise - from the story, the gag ratio, to the cast and the always superb animation. If this is to be Shrek's last outing, it's good to see him bow out in style.

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