A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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 | , , , , ,

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