Good-looking green guy

Shrek the Third

In the old days, these pedicures used to be kind of relaxing …

In the old days, these pedicures used to be kind of relaxing …

Rated 3.0

Shrek the Third, chapter three in the green ogre chronicles, is an OK movie. That’s not high praise, but seeing something that passes for a good movie comes as great relief after a lousy start to the summer movie season. It might not be better than its predecessors, but it’s worlds better than other recent animated offerings like Meet the Robinsons or Arthur and the Invisibles. It looks great, has a sweet message and carries enough laughs to make it worthy of the series.

Having been inundated with many a computer animated movie over the past few years, it’s easy to take one that is innovative and visually superior for granted. This is most certainly one of the better-looking CGI productions put to film, and it gets high marks for that. The story, a sort of haphazard account of Shrek (voice by Mike Myers) and his quest not to be king, is mildly engaging. While that might not be what we’ve come to expect from the franchise, it still makes for decent entertainment.

The Frog King Harold (John Cleese) is dying in a comically long scene and makes it clear he wants Shrek as the new leader. When Shrek balks at the gig, the king reveals that there is one other possible heir to the throne. Shrek jumps at the chance to reject ultimate responsibility and goes on a quest to find some guy named Artie.

Turns out that Artie (Justin Timberlake) is a geeky high school student with low self-esteem, giving Shrek a chance to play father figure and get the boy hyped for the job. Meanwhile, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) has taken over Far Far Away with a bunch of fairytale villains (Captain Hook, the Cyclops, Rumpelstiltskin), placing a pregnant Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and members of her baby shower party (Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty) in peril.

There are plenty of modern references to interrupt the fairytale settings, as in past Shrek films. The gimmick is getting a little tired but still has some good moments. Snow White (Amy Poehler) summoning the forces of nature while screaming Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” is a definite highlight, as is a Rosemary’s Baby spoof in which infants attack Shrek. The film’s best new character would be the goofy Merlin the Wizard (Eric Idle), who doesn’t wear underwear beneath his robe.

Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) get plenty of screen time, including a sequence where their identities are switched. Donkey has married the dragon from part two, resulting in some interesting winged offspring.

The subplot involving Timberlake’s King Arthur is straightforward and sweet but not a major laugh generator. That pretty much goes for the rest of the picture. Shrek the Third settles for being a charming morality tale over being hysterically funny. It would truly be hard to argue with anybody who considers it a letdown. It is in some ways. Director Chris Miller has lost some of the vibrancy and irreverent humor of the prior chapters in exchange for simple, solid storytelling.

I say again, this movie does look great. Nobody does CGI hair like the artists behind these films. I found myself admiring cartoon hairdos for much of the running time, especially the head of hair on Prince Charming. They must animate every strand of hair using a normal head of hair as the model. It’s insane.

Good hair does not a great movie make, but we do get a pretty good one. Shrek the Third doesn’t save the summer movie season, but it has stopped the bleeding for now. Next up, another part three in a huge blockbuster franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, which will certainly sit atop the box office. The second Pirates stunk, so I’m a tad skeptical.