2.5 stars out of 5
In a way, this fourth instalment of the Shrek series, which was supposed to have ended with 2007’s Shrek the Third, has a similar premise with the upcoming Sex and the City sequel.
Both films ask, what happens after “I do”?
While the fabulous New Yorkers, and their fabulous men, trek off to Abu Dhabi to find their answers, Shrek (voiced again by Mike Myers), the celebrity ogre who feels that family life is wearing on him, happens to bump into Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who offers a magical deal of a lifetime.
Shrek wants to feel like “a real ogre” for just one day, to go back to his singleton life, when he was free to do what he wanted – scare humans, take mud baths, be grumpy – without having any responsibilities.
Unbeknownst to Shrek, Rumpelstiltskin, a snake oil salesman by nature, harbours a grudge against him for botching one of his schemes, and plots vengeance within the enchanted contract he gets Shrek to sign.
In a development that recalls Back to the Future 2, Shrek is spirited away into an alternate reality whereby he can be as much of a real ogre as he pleases... because none of his friends know him.
His ogre-princess wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) kicks him in the face at their ‘reunion’ and, what’s worse, the ruler of the fairytale kingdom of Far, Far Away is now the petty and cruel Rumpelstiltskin himself.
Dohrn, whose only other discernible credit is as a voice actor on Shrek the Third, is memorable as the villain, his voice conveying smarminess and inherent dishonesty perfectly. He helps keep the film interesting, whenever he is on the scene.
The rest of the film, however, feels like a kinder and gentler version of what we expect of a Shrek movie.
The beauty of the original Shrek, and its superior first sequel, was that the films were unafraid to tackle any fairytale theme or cliché and mercilessly poke fun at it. Irreverent humour was the order of the day, and there was humour aplenty for both kids and adults – the hallmark of any successful animated comedy.
Here, you’ll find that there are precious few laughs for adults, and one suspects some kids might get bored, too, despite the 3D effects and a few point-of-view chase scenes.
The film is uncharacteristically sentimental for a member of this series – suggesting that the writers had perhaps scraped the bottom of the barrel last time out – and the few jokes that are present come across as half-hearted.
Some of the biggest laughs probably come from Puss (Antonio Banderas), who in the ‘bizarro’ world is an overweight house cat, still valiant in spirit, but flabby in flesh.
You know an animated film is troubled when star Eddie Murphy, usually box-office gold in such films, and his Donkey character aren’t one of the key talking points here. The best joke out of the Donkey-Puss combo is when Donkey calls him a ‘cat-astrophe’ and he replies that Donkey is ‘re-donkey-lous’.
Yup, that’s about as a funny as it got.
As a family film, with the 3D incentive, this sequel will likely still pack audiences in. It’s just disappointing that a franchise that started out in a brash, no-holds-barred fashion does not get the fairytale ending it deserves.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
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