A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 382 – Shrek the Third

Shrek the Third – March 17th, 2011

Oh dear. I had never seen this one before. I stopped with the second one and just never got around to this one and needless to say I haven’t seen the fourth. And I think that might have been a good move on my part. I don’t necessarily regret watching this tonight, because it did have some moments I enjoyed and some fun performances and I think perhaps this project is setting me up with some much lower expectations than I’d have otherwise. After all, I’ve sat through Death Proof and Punch Drunk Love. Nothing in this movie offended me. It’s just nowhere near as good as the first two.

To be honest, I’m kind of ticked off about that. Because the first two movies had that unfortunate pattern I mentioned where everyone dragged Fiona around like she couldn’t make her own decisions. And they followed the same basic pattern. And this one tried to break that pattern and I appreciate that. It just failed to do it well and wasted some prime awesome material on what ended up being an unfulfilling side plot. I can see what they were going for, but they missed the mark and it’s all the more disappointing for it.

So the basic plot is actually two plots. Shrek and Fiona are put in charge “temporarily” while the king is sick and when he dies he leaves Shrek as heir to the throne. Shrek is totally not up for that and decides to head off and find the only other royal male heir: Artie. Donkey and Puss go with him and they have a decidedly unexciting adventure that involves Eric Idle playing Merlin as Rincewind at Woodstock. Meanwhile, back at the castle, a disgruntled Prince Charming rallies all the villains at the Poison Apple Pub and takes over the kingdom, imprisoning the queen, Fiona and Fiona’s princess pals (and Dragon and the mutant donkey dragon babies). And well, the two plots do not go hand in hand. They are horribly unbalanced and have almost nothing to do with one another and that? Is a problem.

I’ve mentioned this before when movies do the split plot thing. When you take your core cast and split it in half and send one group off on one quest and the other on another, you’d better damn well make sure you’re making The Empire Strikes Back or The Lord of the Rings, because otherwise you just have a mess. It ends up feeling like you couldn’t figure out how to have one plot or the other fill an entire movie or happen with everyone around. Like you came up with one plot and said “Well, we need to get rid of Fiona for that to work,” or “Quick, send Shrek away so we can do this,” and then stuck the two together. And I’m saying this even though I kind of like the concept behind both plots.

On one hand, you’ve got Shrek, still angsting over being an ogre and all that. He’s off to find the true king and you might guess by my mentions of Merlin and Artie that we’re dealing with a King Arthur spoof here. And I could get behind the idea of an Arthurian spoof set in a medieval high school. If it was done well. But oh, the wasted opportunity! There’s not a single joke about Artie pulling a sword out of anything. Guinevere barely exists. Lancelot’s funny but once they leave the school you never see him again. And the school itself is all stereotypes and no real twists on them. There is so much that could have been done with the Arthurian stuff in the Shrek universe and they just walk away from it. It’s a throwaway joke.

Then the second plot follows Charming’s attempt to take over, which amounts to a stirring speech in the pub, one romp through the shops in down town Far Far Away, threatening Pinocchio, the Wolf, the Three Pigs and Gingy and then the climax. Again, so much material here! So many potential jokes and gags and laughs and moments and… No. Because we’re too busy hearing Shrek and Artie mope around Merlin’s love-in campfire retreat, talking about their feelings and bonding. So it’s not surprising that since the actual coup gets such short shrift, the princess underground rebellion gets even less time. And seriously? This would have been awesome to get more of. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Snow White, plus Fiona and her mother, sneaking through the castle catacombs? Breaking out of their prison tower themselves? Fighting back to save Shrek? Hell yes! Crank up the Heart and go to it, ladies! And then it’s over. Damn, that’s a let-down.

And then there’s the baby plot. I honestly think that while this movie does seem to be saying, on the surface, that babies are great, it’s actually saying you don’t ever ever want to have one. Fiona tells Shrek she’s pregnant just as he’s leaving to find Artie and this should be the unifying thread that somehow ties the two plots together. Unfortunately Shrek all but forgets about it aside from one absolutely horrifying and birth-control encouraging nightmare and once the princesses go on the run from Fiona’s interrupted baby shower it’s not mentioned in her plot either. Instead of being the core issue that brings you from one plot to the other, while the two expectant parents deal with the excitement and fear that I hear are pretty much the norm for expectant parents everywhere, it’s left by the wayside. Oh, it returns for far too much of the ending, which is basically a five minute montage of ogre babies and mutant donkey dragon babies making messes (and which continues into the credits), but it’s not actually in the movie’s storyline.

Sure, there are some fun lines and all. I do love the underground princess rebellion and I wish they’d gotten more time. I totally could have gotten behind a better and more clever Arthurian plot. I could even have dealt with Shrek moaning about his impending fatherhood. I like that they tried to do something different than the typical “Shrek has to save Fiona but oh, do they really belong together” plot. I just think they tried to do too much and ended up doing far too little. All the fantastic performances and moments from Donkey and Puss and the princess brigade can’t fix that.

March 17, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shrek the Third

March 17, 2011

Shrek the Third

Let me be perfectly frank. This movie is a turd. A big messy ugly turd of a movie. There are several things that can go wrong with a sequel, and this movie exemplifies just about every one of them. It tries too darned hard to bring the laughs. It tries to do too much at once with multiple plots and multiple emotional centres. It has sort of sad callbacks to the earlier films that act to highlight just how insipid this one is. Several times it feels like it is amateurishly trying to do again what the earlier movies did well – as if it were made by an enthusiastic fan of the first tow films who had some idea of what should be in a Shrek film but didn’t understand how to infuse it with genuine emotion. Worst of all it has, at its climactic moment, a character flat out telling us what the message of the movie is supposed to be. That goes beyond sledgehammer storytelling and right to the pile driver.

One of the biggest problems this movie has is that it’s so fractured. At the start of the film Shrek is upset because he has been saddled with the task of ruling the kingdom of Far Far Away and he doesn’t do too good a job of it. His oafish ways lead to carnage whenever he tries to perform any of the ceremonies that a king is expected to do. He’s unhappy being in a position of power too and just wants to go back to his swamp. So when he discovers that there’s some long-lost heir to the kingdom he goes off on a quest to fetch this young prince Arthur and bring him back to be king. That’s plot number one.

Just as he’s about to leave, however, Fiona reveals that she’s pregnant and Shrek will be a father soon. Now he has to deal with issues surrounding this sense of impending doom that fatherhood represents for him. (In one of the most terrifying nightmare sequences ever filmed he dreams of hordes of baby ogres invading his swamp home.) At first the movie plays this fear of fatherhood as a dread of losing his carefree Independence, but it soon abandons that in favor of Shrek’s dread that he’s going to be an inadequate father. (At least that’s what he says – the nightmare sequence doesn’t really have that vibe.) So Shrek has to come to grips with the notion that he’s going to be a father – that’s plot number two.

Meanwhile Prince Charming has rallied all the fairy-tale villains he can find to take over the kingdom of Far Far Away so that he can declare himself king and force the populace of the kingdom to watch some lame play he wants to put on. If that sounds oddly irritating and not particularly menacing it’s because it is. His plan to put on a big musical production makes no sense whatsoever and isn’t particularly sinister. The result is that the rousing climax of the film, when all our heroes show up to save Shrek and stop the play, lacks impact. I suppose this would be plot number three.

There are some attempts to wedge the three plots together – having Shrek’s paternal instincts come out in defense of Arthur for example – but the movie never quite gels. It’s too full of inanity and clumsy awful writing. It feels like a big room full of writers brainstormed as many ideas as they could to wedge into the Shrek world and then just threw them all together without any attempt to unify them. Like the side plot about Donkey and Puss switching bodies which, eh, has no particular purpose, no bearing on the movie, and just feels forced.

There’s an extended scene where Shrek and company arrive at Worcester High School to pick up Arthur that is meant to be some kind of hilarious spoof of High School as seen through the lens of the Shrek universe but instead is an agonising parade of tired jokes about High School with not a single original idea for about fifteen minutes. It’s so unbearably painful! Oh, look, there’s jocks and nerds and gum popping popular girls. There’s disinterested teenagers who say “like” a lot. Like, you know, whatever. At one point, in a very Dr. Evil inspired Mike Myers riff, Shrek attempts to talk teenaged lingo to Arthur to show how hip he is. That segment is SUPPOSED to feel out of touch and lame – but for me it just cemented how out of touch and lame the entire school sequence was from start to finish.

There are a couple bright spots in the movie. I really enjoyed Eric Idle’s performance as Rincewind the Wizzard. I mean, Mr. Merlin, the exiled magic teacher from the school. He’s so delightfully clueless and spacey and he completely steals the movie. I want more of him an less of just about everything else. I also really enjoyed the brief moment when the princesses band together and decide to stop waiting to be rescued and take care of things themselves. Sadly that only lasts a couple minutes because the writers seem to quickly run out of ways for them to use their princess shtick in battle. Snow white summons woodland creatures, Sleeping beauty trips up soldiers by falling asleep in front of them and Cinderella throws her glass slipper. (Who throws a shoe? Honestly?) And then? Well it’s over already.

There are so many moments in this movie that feel like they’re attempts to make a Shrek movie by somebody who just doesn’t get it. There are pop song covers. There is Shrek driving people away by being an ogre at them. There are references to the other films like Puss making doe eyes and Shrek saying his classic “Better out than in, I always say.” Ultimately I have to conclude that this isn’t a Shrek movie, really, it’s just a sad attempt to wring some money from the franchise. I’ve ordered a copy of the fourth film and I’m kind of dreading it now. Just how low can this franchise sink I wonder.

March 17, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment