A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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 | , , ,

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