a critiQal film review Shrek the Third (2007)

Plot: Wanting to get back to life in the swamp with Fiona (Diaz), Shrek (Myers) must find the heir to the throne of Far Far Away. With the help of Puss In Boots (Banderas) and Donkey (Murphy), he finds young Artie (Timberlake). Now he must convince this rebellious young man - who will grow up to be King Arthur - to come back and sit on the throne.

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Forget Spider-Man 3 (2007) – the first real blockbuster movie of the season just opened last Friday…and it’s animated. After the big laughs of the first two, many have been eagerly awaiting Shrek The Third since it was first announced – the two of us among them.

However, we’ve been a little nervous, since ex-boy bander Justin Timberlake has joined the cast in Shrek the Third. But, he can’t really ruin the whole movie can he? I mean, he’s just another voice, right? We hope so.

So, with a little trepidation, we set out for the theaters to check out Shrek The Third. Would Shrek, Fiona, Donkey & Puss N’ Boots be able to keep the magic alive enough for an enjoyable 3rd film and the inevitable 4th sequel (already announced for 2010), or would Justin Timberlake help this series’s fans go bye bye bye?

All of the original voice cast returns for Shrek the Third. Mike Myers, who, as Shrek, spewed hilarious statements like they were going out of style, toned himself down a bit in the 2nd film – and continues to do so in the third. While he’s still funny, he’s no longer the main source of entertainment, as this film continues the more thoughtful and caring Shrek that the 2nd film nurtured.

But, what about the sidekicks in Shrek the Third? Eddie Murphy, as Donkey, again has toned it down a little since the first film – maybe being a Dad on-screen (Donkey now has winged donkey kids) has been a part of that. Antonio Banderas’ Puss N’ Boots, as usual leaving most of the laughs to other characters, still manages to sneak in a couple of chuckles.

Cameron Diaz’s Fiona seems to be the least-changed out of all the characters in Shrek the Third. After her major change in the first film, she’s almost exactly the same as the viewers have seen since then – despite the major change she undergoes during this film (she’s pregnant).

While the plot of Shrek the Third seems a good continuation of the story, the film doesn’t seem to do as much with the plot as it could have. For example, while Shrek is away searching for the next heir to the throne, Prince Charming teams up with the other villains of fairy tales and attacks the kingdom. Instead of a big fight, complete with outrageous stunts and hilarious attack sequences – like those seen in the original film, he pretty much takes the kingdom without a fight. It’s a bit disappointing, since the viewers are expecting more.

Then, there’s Artie himself. While Justin Timberlake (thankfully) isn’t that recognizable, they easily could have done so much more with the Arthur character. Either Justin Timberlake wasn’t up to the voice acting or, more likely, the whole “legend of Arthur” thing will probably play more of a role in the next film. As it is, he seems to be around just to give Shrek, Donkey & Puss N’ Boots something to do that keeps them away from Prince Charming’s takeover – oh, and a couple of lengthy “heartfelt” speeches that ram the morale down the viewers’ throats.

While the first film did a great job of wrapping the morale of the story neatly into the film, progressive films have gotten progressively worse at doing so. Shrek 2 (2004) managed to make the story fun and interesting enough the viewer didn’t mind the more blatant morale. With Shrek The Third, however, the characters make the morale even more blatant thanks to lengthy speeches that almost completely stop the film. It’s rather annoying, as nobody likes to be preached to – even if it is by a cartoon.

Then there’s the animation, which, in contrast, gets better and better with each film. At this point, the animation is so good, the viewer can actually see Mike Myers in Shrek’s features clearly enough it’s as if Mike’s face is being superimposed. While it’s amazing in terms of animation, it’s a little freaky when seen (especially on the big screen), and takes some getting used to. Unfortunately, while the viewer is getting used to this more human Shrek, the story is continuing on in the background.

The first time I saw an animated film (Akira), I was impressed. Then computer animation (Toy Story (1995)) came along, and I was blown away. Never once did I think the constantly improving animation would be a bad thing – until I saw Shrek The Third. The freakishly real-looking Shrek is a sight to behold – but something that takes time for the viewer to wrap their mind around. After all, we’ve seen this character in 2 other films – we have an idea of what he looks like.

But, this is the new and improved Shrek, and seems to have combined the facial features of Mike Myers with the rather cartoon-y Shrek we know, creating an oddity that is a bit more unnerving than I would have ever expected. Instead of being drawn into the film (as the first two managed to do so easily), the viewer remains much more of a bystander, causing the film to be less fun than it could have been.

Still, Shrek the Third is a decent enough sequel, with plenty of laughs. But it’s rather freaky Shrek and it’s lengthy speeches do cause a great amount of detriment to the viewer’s enjoyment of the film, making me wonder if the only reason I’m going to add it to my DVD collection is because I already own the first two.

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