Sunday, August 8, 2010

Shrek Forever After Review

In what is officially billed as the final episode of the Shrek franchise, our big green hero (voice of Mike Myers) is working through a midlife crisis. It’s the same thing day after day… raising kids, putting up with tourists wanting to see your swamp, and keeping the outhouse running smoothly. All these gritty little details are weighing Shrek down to the point where he finally loses it during his kid’s birthday party. Wishing to be left alone to enjoy life as a grumpy ogre again, Shrek opens himself up to the temptations of an unknown enemy.

Years ago Rumpelstiltskin (voice of Walt Dohrn), a dealer of deception, had the King and Queen (voices of John Cleese and Julie Andrews) on the verge of signing over their kingdom to him in return for removing the spell that made their daughter Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) an ogre by night and a princess by day. Of course, Shrek’s rescue thwarted his plan leaving the menacing magician with nothing. Sporting a new offer in hand, Rumpelstiltskin (with the help of a few eyeball martinis) manages to convince the beleaguered father to sign a contract giving him a day away from all his worries in exchange for one "meaningless" day from his childhood. What Shrek doesn’t know is his signature will void the day of his birth.

Literally taking a page from It’s A Wonderful Life (one scene contains some exact lines from the classic Christmas movie), Shrek is propelled into a parallel universe where he no longer exist and ogres are treated as slaves. Trying to put things right, Shrek begins by attempting to convince his friends Donkey and Puss in Boots (voices of Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas) that he knew them in a past life. But if that is difficult, rekindling his relationship with his wife proves even harder. Fiona is now the head of a rebellion, and has no interest in the newcomer’s affection.

After a near-decade of character development, Shrek’s crusty outer layers seem to be giving way to a softer persona underneath. For some fans, this may be a disappointment. Yet from a family perspective, there has never been a more accessible Shrek. Other than the usual cartoon slapstick violence, along with diaper and outhouse comments, this fourth installment is devoid of the sexual innuendo and edgy humor that pervaded earlier movies. Thankfully there is still laughter, especially for those old enough to sympathize with the overloaded feeling years of kids, job issues and plugged drains can create.

It should come as no surprise that a happily ever after ending concludes this final tale from the land of Far, Far, Away. Still, the sentimentality seems justified. For most of us, the path of mortality leads through the young adult "I know it all" years, which segue into the mid-life experience of "I know nothing" compunction. Ironically Shrek, an imaginary character in a highly unrealistic world, is portraying a similar progression through his animated life’s experience. If the writers stay on this course, I’d love to see this ogre dealing with grandkids and prune juice.

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