Third installment of Shrek looks neat, but misses the story and the funny
I’ll cop … I sort of enjoyed the first Shrek, and the second one was OK, despite the vibe that everyone involved was obviously running out of creative steam.
That lack of an overall point really shows in this third entry. All the characters are back in their places, as Prince Charming sets about staging a cartoon d'état in the land of Far, Far Away. Meanwhile, King Harold (John Cleese) has croaked, and Shrek (Mike Meyers) finds himself the new heir apparent and wants nothing to do with it, so he sets off to track down kid Arthur and zany hippie magician Merlin to fill in for him. Things happen and recycled jokes fall flat, but the toddlers will eat them up.
On the plus side, the scatological humor is toned down (slightly) and the entendres are kept in stealth mode. Oddly enough, the lack of adult humor is compensated for with a tin-eared approach to filling up the soundtrack. Aside from the sappy ballads that mark every transition, they’ve also utilized classic tracks from The Ramones, Zeppelin and Heart’s “Barracuda” … and “Live and Let Die,” used during a funeral scene? In a kid’s film? Like, WTF?
While I didn’t hate Shrek the Third, I still found it kind of depressing … not because I was expecting more, but because there was really nothing there. All those animators putting in the hours frame by frame (or pixel by pixel) with nothing to hang it on insofar as a story or gags. Admittedly, the animators are the stars of the show here, as some unexpectedly loving detail is put into their work. Too bad they didn’t hire writers to match that level of professionalism. The script (if that’s what they were working off of) just sort of meanders around using other pop movie moments to build a patchwork quilt of a narrative, as if the writers for Epic Movie had somehow snuck in and replaced the proper script.
That said, there is a scene toward the end that borders on absolute brilliance, as a character shifts from Disney Darling to Mother Nature Bats Last, in a moment that only falls short because they shoehorned the opening of a popular rock song into the money shot instead of going with an organic sound effect. But that brief, fleeting moment still managed to give me chills.
Overall? Didn’t laugh. Even once.