A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 383 – Shrek Forever After

Shrek Forever After – March 18th, 2011

I’m going to be honest here: I wasn’t ever expecting to watch this movie. That’s because until today we didn’t own it and I had no idea Andy had ordered it. And he’s very lucky that the quality of this one is a good deal higher than the last one because otherwise we would have some things to talk about. Actually, we did have some things to talk about. Namely, a new rule that states that from now on any movie purchased by one or the other of us without notification and approval of the other can be treated as an unsolicited addition. Which means not necessarily watched for the project. And after last night’s muddled mess, I think I was well within my rights to question the inclusion of its sequel.

And as I said, Andy is lucky that this one is better. It’s a good deal better, actually. There’s no attempt at split plots here, no wasted possibilities of entire genres of jokes. It’s decidedly darker than the first three, with a well-worn plot device driving the action, but my biggest complaint isn’t any of that. It’s the beginning of the movie. Because the whole point of the plot is that Shrek has to get to a point where he’s susceptible to someone making him a deal where he’ll end up in a world where he never existed. So the first fifteen to twenty minutes of the movie (and oh does it feel longer) are devoted to making the audience feel like Shrek’s life is really, truly, horribly, excruciatingly torturous. Instead it just reinforced my decision to never have kids. Especially little ogre triplets or mutant donkey dragon babies.

Shrek and Fiona are living together in the swamp with their babies and Donkey and his kids come for dinner and it’s an endless succession of days full of dirty diapers, baby puke, household chores, no time to rest, broken furniture, chaos and so on and so forth. It winds into a frenzy, with Shrek growing more and more frustrated and trapped and desperate until the triplets’ first birthday party where he totally loses it and storms out after roaring at all the guests. In his moment of weakness Shrek is tempted by Rumplestiltskin and signs away a single day of his life in return for a day where he gets to be a regular ogre again. Except, as we all know, Rumplestiltskin is all about the fine print and swipes the day Shrek was born, thereby making him not exist. And thus Shrek has to find a way to get out of his contract before the day is over.

Really, it’s your standard It’s a Wonderful Life rip-off but with Rumplestiltskin instead of Mr. Potter and instead of his wife being a spinster librarian in the alternate non-Shrek world she’s a kick-ass ogre resistance leader. Which, wait, this is a bad thing? Okay, so the reason she’s an ogre resistance leader is because without Shrek around (and apparently without Charming either) Fiona had to rescue herself. And since Rumplestiltskin has taken over Far Far Away and started hunting ogres, well, she’s got quite a group to lead. Not the ideal circumstances, but damn if it doesn’t make for an incredibly awesome role for Fiona in this movie. This is what I wanted from her and the princesses in the third one. She is consistently bad ass every step of the way here and I love her. I love her to pieces and this one thing is the primary reason why I cannot remain mad that Andy bought this without telling me. Self-rescuing princess who leads a barbarian horde and rejects unwanted romantic overtures with a boot to the butt? Yeah, I like her.

Sadly, that version of Fiona is doomed to be a limited time offer, since Shrek’s whole mission in this plot is to slip through the loophole in his contract and get back to his real life where Fiona is still awesome but not quite so bad ass. It’s a pity that she couldn’t go on being the ass whupping ogre leader she was even after Shrek headed back to his own reality. And normally I’d be championing a new branch of canon and all, but the movie makes it quite clear that no, it doesn’t last past Shrek’s departure. Alas. I can understand why it would be a sad world to leave running, what with the true love aspect for Shrek and Fiona, and as I said it’s a dark world in general (oh, Gingy!) but still, alas.

I appreciate that this movie did the It’s a Wonderful Life thing the way that it did it. Sure, it’s familiar, but that’s what makes it a good vehicle for something like this. We know these characters. We know this world. We know how it all works. Seeing their alternate selves makes this a parody of what was already a parody, which is a nice little level of meta. And I like some of the alternates! Donkey’s still Donkey, obviously, and I’ve made my feelings about Fiona clear, I hope. But then there’s Puss. Who is a bit chubbier and less swashbuckling but no less awesome. He reminded me quite a bit of one of our own cats and of my mother’s last cat, on whom some of Puss’s actions could have been modeled. I liked the new characters of the huge ogres and I liked the witches and I even liked Rumplestiltskin as a bad guy. And then there’s the Pied Piper, who is totally the Boba Fett to Rumplestiltskin’s Darth Vader. I get why the beginning was so exaggeratedly painful. I just wish it had been more painful for Shrek to live than for me to watch. But then the movie gave me Fiona, Queen of the Ogres, and for that alone I’m actually glad we own it.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shrek Forever After

March 18, 2011

Sherek Forever After

Well. We just got done watching this movie for the first time (it arrived in the mail just this afternoon, so just in time to be part of our Shrek viewing block) and I have to say that it was a lot better than I had been dreading. In part, no doubt, this is due to the low bar set by the third movie in the franchise, but even so I believe this movie could stand on its own as a fun and thrilling Shrek experience. I somewhat regret now that I never saw this in the theater.

Of course this does feel like the third time we’ve reviewed It’s a Wonderful Life since we already reviewed that movie and the Very Merry Muppet Christmas, but this movie does some fun things with the somewhat over used “I wish I had never been born” premise. For one thing it has considerably more action and adventure to it. For another, although the core premise remains the same, it is mostly played for laughs. Which is the right choice.

Shrek is, at the start of this film, upset with his harried life as a father to a trio of ogre babies. We get a quick montage that shows how the routine of his domestic life revolves around feeding and cleaning the babies, dealing with play-dates with Donkey’s mutant babies and unplugging the outhouse. He’s a father and a husband and a local celebrity and misses just being an ogre. Eventually, of course, he snaps and makes an ill advised deal with that slimy and untrustworthy deal maker Rumpelstiltskin. Anybody who has ever seen It’s a Wonderful Life knows just where this is going because naturally he soon discovers that the lives of everybody he knows are radically altered if he was never around. Like Jimmy Stewart in Pottersville he finds himself in a nightmare dystopia that results primarily from his not being around to rescue Fiona from the tower.

The twist here, and what makes this movie work as more than just a remake using Shrek characters, is that Shrek can’t just realize the error of his ways and ask Clarance to undo things. Rumpelstiltskin has worded Shrek’s contract in such a way that the only way he can get his life back is through true love’s kiss – which means he needs to find Fiona in this alternate reality and convince her not just to kiss him but to love him. Oh, and there’s a time limit because Shrek will cease to exist at dawn.

It’s a lot of fun to see what has become of all Shrek’s friends in this alternate reality. Gingy is fighting animal crackers in a sort of cookie arena. Donkey is a beast of burden working for the witches in Rumpelstiltskin’s employ. Puss in Boots is hilarious as a pampered and overweight domestic cat. (Made that much funnier by the fact that my own rotund lump of a cat was lying like a big lump of fur right in front of our TV.) Most interesting of all though is Fiona. When nobody came to rescue her from the tower she rescued herself and now she’s the badass leader of an ogre rebel underground. I cannot possibly express just how awesome barbarian badass Fiona is. She’s worth the price of admission right there.

Of course as a tough rebel leader Fiona has hardened her heart. She doesn’t believe in true love or fairy tales any more. Which makes Shrek’s situation somewhat desperate.

A quick word about the visuals in the movie: it is full of big, sweeping, thrilling action set-pieces. Even during the montage of domestic horrors there’s a cool looking dragon ride. At first I was somewhat befuddled by this, but then it dawned on me. This is meant to be seen in 3-D. I should have picked it up right from the opening logo where the Dreamworks boy sweeps away the clouds with a dramatic flick of his fishing rod. Oh, it’s not as bad as the characters in Beowulf pointing their spears at the camera in a “look how 3-D we are” way, but it’s pretty obvious that the swooping, soaring action is meant to pop right out of the screen at you. It’s fantastically animated (as all three films are) and grand to view even on our old television, but I frequently felt like I was only seeing half the movie.

What I enjoyed about this movie is that it didn’t simply try to re-hash the first couple films. It doesn’t rely so much on the pop culture humor of them (there are no modern day references or attempts at parody. Unless you count the witch infested rave at the heart of Rumpelstiltskin’s kingdom.) It relies on good storytelling, humor derived from the actual characters we know from the previous films, and a lot of swashbuckling adventure. It has the heart of a Shrek movie, that tender and somewhat trite message that it drives home, but it does something new and cool with the world. It made me believe in the franchise again, which was a relief.

March 18, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment