SHREK THE THIRD was a desperate movie - a commercial enterprise designed to squeeze every last buck from a franchise, no matter that the plot was confused and cobbled together. I barely sat through it, and hated every moment. When the franchise began, Mike Myers's Shrek was a loveable anti-hero subverting our idea of a fairytale Prince into a farting ogre and Cameron Diaz' Princess Fiona wasn't just a passive pretty girl waiting to be rescued but a feisty, whip-smart woman whose true self was fat and happy. The joy of those films was to see unlikely friendships form between Shrek, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas), and to see Shrek and Fiona fall in love. To be sure, the humour was subversive of the Disney myth, but it was always warm-hearted, and after a pretty straight-forward adventure our anti-heroes would always emerge triumphant and true to themselves.
By contrast, by SHREK THE THIRD, Shrek had turned into a whiny little bitch, and the humour was particularly snarky and mean - coming in the form of cheap, lazy Exorcist spoofs of ROSEMARY'S BABY and teen-rom-coms. Fiona was less feisty woman that put-upon wife, and the whole thing had a rather mean-spirited, vulgar feel. So, when SHREK FOREVER AFTER rolled into our cinemas, complete with that ultimate commercial shake-down - 3D - I decided to give it a miss. Imagine, then, my surprise to discover that SHREK FOREVER AFTER isn't have bad at all!
The good news is that the writers have decided to focus on just one idea - and the big grand concept is that Shrek is so peeved with being a harassed father that he allows Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohm) to trick him into signing a contract in which he never existed. What then follows is a sort of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE meets STAR WARS movie, in which Shrek sees what would have happened if he hadn't existed, and must get Fiona to give him "true love's kiss" in order to get back to normal. Donkey blanks him; Puss In Boots has become fat and lazy; Far Far Away is ruled by a tyrannical Stiltskin, and Fiona, having rescued herself, has become a Rebel Leader leading her fellow ogres in arms against Vader, sorry, Stiltskin! The great thing about this conceit, is that we get to see Fiona back to being feisty, and we get to relive what was wonderful in the first films - seeing Shrek and Fiona fall for each other again, and seeing Shrek and Donkey and Puss become friends again. It's as though the film-makers didn't want the franchise to end on the downer of Part Three and so restored us to the feel-good feeling of Part One. SHREK FOREVER AFTER is, then, a pleasingly good watch. Not as brilliant as Part One, partly because we can't get back that initial surprise, but good fun nonetheless. Hopefully, the film-makers will have the good grace to end it here.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER was released in summer 2010 and is now available to rent and buy.