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SHREK THE THIRD

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, Eric Idle
Director:  Chris Miller
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Dreamworks
Features:  See Review
Length:  92 Minutes
Release Date:  November 13, 2007

“That’s a nice leotard…do they come in men’s sizes?”

Film ***

Is the third time the charm?  It can be.  Shrek the Third continues the story of our favorite ogre and his ragtag friends in the kingdom of Far Far Away…a place where fairy tale legends live, play, and make us laugh.

The king (Cleese) has fallen ill, leaving Shrek (Myers) and Fiona (Diaz) to take over royal duties.  But being a leader is something that never fit the awkward Shrek well, so when the king passes, Shrek decides the land would be better off with a ruler from a little further down the line, and he and his faithful companions Donkey (Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Banderas) set off to find Arthur (Timberlake) to tell him the good news.

But Arthur, or Artie, as he likes to be called, is the least of Shrek’s worries, particularly when Fiona lets him know he’s about to be a father.  Not to mention the scheming Prince Charming (Everett) has designs on a hostile takeover, leading all the fairy tale villains to storm into the kingdom, depose Fiona, and write their own happy-ever-after ending.  Find the young prince, save the land, change the diapers?  All in a day’s work for Shrek.

This film is a little more slapstick than clever, but the laughs are still plentiful.  I love when Shrek and friends arrive at Worcestershire High School…the gags are plentiful and the strange Medieval dialect the kids speak is a real hoot.  Not to mention a trio of princesses in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, who throw Fiona a baby shower but end up her partners in resistance…what can they do besides wait to be rescued?

With the help of Merlin (Idle), who seems more like a burned-out aging hippie than a great wizard, Shrek teaches the awkward young Artie a thing or two about being a leader.  And Artie shows Shrek there’s a hero in us all.  Gosh, don’t you just love fairy tales?

Charming’s revenge, which involves a dinner theatre skit, is a little strange, but as long as we have Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and Puss in Boots, you just have a feeling all will be right in the end.  The message about reaching for your dreams is a good one, I suppose, but I was more than happy to get back to the comedy.  There are laughs a-plenty in the last stretch of film, which shows Shrek in full father mode.  Yikes!

The movie lacks the energy of the first installment, but is more consistently funny than the second, even if the humor is based more on broad strokes than witty detail.  But seeing both seems to be a prerequisite.  I don’t think you’d quite understand who all the characters are, why they are there, or how they relate without background.  The movie assumes you’ve seen the earlier pictures, but given the blockbuster status of them all, I doubt too many won’t fall into that category.

Shrek the Third is a comfortable chapter, at ease in its own skin, and easy to enjoy.  But I hope the franchise doesn’t stay in cruise control.  If there’s to be a fourth, let’s take a few more risks and add a few fresh ideas…otherwise, I can’t say I’ll be ogre-ly excited to see it.

Video ****

Dreamworks never seems to disappoint in this department…Shrek the Third is a bright, colorful and detailed offering showcasing the best computer animation can provide.  Images are sharp and crystal clear throughout, and no noticeable grain or compression mars the effect.

Audio ****

The 5.1 audio is quite lively and dynamic, with plenty of fast paced scenes that keep the surrounds in full employ.  Dialogue is clear throughout, and the many amusing music cues are an added bonus.

Features ***

The extras include some deleted scenes and a ‘gag’ reel, plus Artie’s Yearbook, Shrek’s Guide to Parenthood, a look at the technology, learning to do the Donkey dance, plus extra fun with Merlin’s crystal ball, tournament games, making your own music video, plus some features for your DVD ROM.

Summary:

Shrek the Third sets a lower bar and clears it easily.  It’s colorful, funny entertainment with loveable characters and a relaxed sense of identity.  Very enjoyable, but not outstanding.

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