Shrek: Third time’s just as charming

Reeling it in

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2007

“Shrek the Third”


1 hour, 33 minutes

I guess it’s appropriate that, in the summer of sequels, Shrek should rear his lumpy green head once again. Naturally, it will be the biggest film of the weekend, and vie for the biggest of the year, but I just wasn’t all that excited to see it. Before I sat down to write this, I decided to look back at the previous “Shrek” reviews I’d written and see how they jibe with my memory. Oddly, though I remember the first film to be somewhat amusing, yet offensive, the review I wrote was as glowing as they come, including the phrase, “not too offensive.” Hmmm. I remember the second film as funnier than the first, although my review describes the beginning as “boring.” Obviously I’m a little conflicted on these films, and considering the fact I thoroughly enjoyed this third installment, I’m sure that, in a year, I’ll describe it as “so-so.”

I think part of my problem with these movies is the marketing. They are really not for kids (disregard the fact that my first review lists “Shrek” as being “great for kids!”). It’s not even the offensive nature of some of the humor, whether it be the constant farting or the wardrobe (Pinocchio wears a thong in part 2), rather it’s the whole package, from themes to characters to humor.

These movies are really aimed at teens and adults. They are marketed, however, to children, a surefire box-office windfall. Luckily, “Shrek the Third” is far less offensive than the second outing, so the worst effect it may have on the little ones is boredom. For the rest of us, however, this film is hilarious.

Having been crowned interim monarchs of Far, Far Away, Shrek and Fiona attempt to conform to a life of royalty, a difficult task for a pair of ogres. Luckily, for us if not for them, constant companions Donkey and Puss (in Boots) are ever-present to help guide them in the ways of a king and queen.

However, when the real king dies, leaving Shrek with the prospect of a permanent life on the throne, the situation becomes untenable. Leaving Fiona in charge, the gang heads off to find Arthur, a royal cousin who can take over the royal duties. Arthur, it turns out, is an awkward teen who sulkily declares that maybe he doesn’t want to be king — an issue our ogre-hero couldn’t care less about. There’s no time for arguing, however.

Back home, the evil Prince Charming has gathered up all the storybook villains he can find to stage a coup on Far, Far Away, and it’s up to the girls (Fiona, her mom and the Princess Mod Squad of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel) to try and save the day. Also joining the fray are familiar faces Pinocchio, the Three Pigs, the Gingerbread Man and a host of others. The result is a gloriously wacky satire on Hollywood, celebrity, teen angst, parenthood, action films and Broadway musicals.

This series of films has really grown from its clever, though relatively one-note inception. Shrek is still the star, but his antics are the least amusing of the whole, and the writers brilliantly give more screen-time to the girls and to the other denizens of Far, Far Away. Not surprisingly, considering the age-level of the audience and the sophistication level of the humor, some jokes get only mild chuckles, while others didn’t seem to get any laughs at all, other than from my friend and I, who were laughing loud enough for all. My favorite is the grand funeral scene for the deceased Frog King, in which a chorus of toads sing, for no apparent reason, Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die,” while the bereaved send their monarch afloat in a golden box which, when the camera views the top, is labeled “Ye Olde Foote Locker.” Seventies Bond ballads and the idea of a royal burial in an old shoe box may not resonate with the under-10 crowd, but I sure thought it was funny.

The “Shrek” movies are incredibly successful and exceedingly clever, bodily function humor notwithstanding, so another couple of installments are probably a foregone conclusion. My only hope would be that they figure out a way to sell this product to those who can get the most out of it, instead of tricking them into watching it with their elementary-age kids. I’m sure future parents will need a night out to themselves, and far from being a silly kid’s movie, “Shrek the Fourth” might just fit the bill. Grade: A-

“Shrek the Third” is rated PG for mild crude humor.

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

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