Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shrek Forever After: A Review

"Do the roar."

The Do-the-Roar Kid
in Shrek Forever After (2010)

I'm relieved that they did not go on with the sequel naming scheme which they pinched from the Blackadder series (Blackadder the Third, Blackadder Goes Forth). Shrek the Third, aside from having a pretty much plagiarised name, was also what I would call a late term abortion; it got us pregnant with expectation but when it finally comes out, no one feels like laughing.

I get it that it had become cool to hate the Shrek franchise in the film geekdom but I cannot, in all honesty, take part in that bandwagon. I have grown to love the ridiculously anachronistic pastiche fairytale world that Shrek, Fiona and all their public domain friends inhabits. The cynic in me knows that the franchise have degenerated into a naked cash grab (and common sense agrees), but it still made me a little sad to know that Shrek Forever After will the be the final entry into the Shrek canon. And I say; leave the incredibly original Oscar-worthy CGI films to Pixar - there's nothing wrong with DreamWorks Animation sticking to the savvy, pop culture referencing animated legacy that they have built from feet up on the foundation of the first Shrek film.

Shrek Poster
Originally Shrek Goes Forth.

It's a testament to my great love for the corpulent green ogre that I paid RM 16 for a 3D screening on opening night to see how the final chapter plays out, even when I know in advance that the premise of Shrek Forever After is basically Shrek's struggle with midlife crisis (oy vey). I harbour no unrealistic expectations and I have steeled myself to possibly endure yet another Shrek the Third debacle - and I certainly made no plan to review it.

But it proved to be a movie worth reviewing.

It's like this; Shrek's living his happily ever after with Fiona and their three (some say) adorable ogrelings, Fergus, Farkle and Felicia. His swampside house is now a tourist attraction; Puss, Donkey and his mutant babies are permanent house guests; and his outhouse is perpetually clogged. The villagers who used to run at the sight of Shrek are now guests at his kids' first birthday party, clamouring for him to "do the roar" and asking him to sign their pitchforks. He longed for the days when he was a feared, loathsome swamp beast before he became the domesticated family ogre he is now.

Enter Rumplestiltskin, a ratty, sneaky little lizard of a man who offered Shrek a deal; give up any one day of his childhood and he'll get a day in return - a day in which he would feel like a real ogre again. And poof we go, to a bizarro Far Far Away in which Shrek was never born, Donkey has never met Shrek, Fiona is a warrior princess leading a freedom-fighting guerilla army of ogres and Puss is Garfield. Now, Shrek would have to befriend Donkey and Puss all over again and make Fiona fall for him... all over again.

Yes, I know it sounds like a real contrived plot device constructed solely to take advantage of what we loved about the first two films but it worked for me. And it worked for me because I actually care about Shrek and Fiona, and this film made me realise that. Once you got me on board that train, you pretty much got me seated for the entire performance. Shrek Forever After shows the flip side to the first movie's story; what if Shrek never rescued Fiona from the highest room in the tallest tower of the dragon's keep? I won't spoil anything but a heartbreaking scene in a certain princess' chamber somewhere drove the point home for me.

In most of the other instances when this film reached out for my heartstrings, I could just barely feel a tug. I guess it's just a sign that this franchise needs retiring. While many, many fans feel that this is one (or three) sequel too many, I think that a trilogy is a pretty good place to be. Yes, I'm pretending that Shrek the Third was never born - presumably because it signed a rigged contract with Rumplestiltskin in an attempt make itself a better movie.

The name Rumplestiltskin had always sounded like an innuendo to me.

Unlike the boring, uncharismatic Prince Charming who played the central villain of Shrek the Third (which I feel contributed most to the film's failure), the manically animated Rumplestiltskin was a constant delight to watch. If you have never heard of the voice actor, Walt Dohrn, it's because he mostly voiced peripheral characters in the last two movies and is the originally just the Head of Story for this. Apparently, Dohrn was only voicing Rumple in the scratch track - a prelim recording just to give an idea of how the character would sound like - and it stuck. They simply couldn't find anyone else who can voice the character better. Fellow film geek, Shaki - with whom I watched Shrek Forever After with - clued me in on this.

Wow, Walt Dohrn looks nothing like how I imagined him to be.

Of course, Jennifer Saunder's Fairy Godmother will always be my favourite Shrek villain but Rumple, in my opinion at least, is better than John Lithgow's Lord Fuckwad Farquaad.

It's subtle but you might notice that while Shrek Forever After is as funny as either of the first two films, there are much less in-your-face pop culture references and more of cartoonish physical comedy. Its soundtrack also hit all the right notes the second movie did but sadly, there is nothing here that is comparable to Shrek 2's storm-the-castle-astride-a-giant-gingerbread-man sequence set with Jennifer Saunder's epic performance of Holding Out For a Hero in the background (gosh, I want to rewatch that NOW). The fourth film, however, did give us pretty hilarious montage of Shrek's day as a real ogre again and causing general slapstick mayhem to the villagers scored to The Carpenters' Top of the World; the whole scene is a Shrek classic, if there's ever such a thing. And since we're on the subject of soundtracks, I thought the best thing to come out of Shrek the Third is Damien Rice's song, 9 Crimes, which featured Lisa Hannigan.

Aside from Rumple, we were also introduced to the Pied Piper - a bounty hunter hired by Rumple to do a spot of ogre hunting for him. There wasn't a voice actor in the role but I liked the character immensely anyhow. One of the things I enjoy best about the Shrek series is to see how they reinterpret fairytale characters; and the black-clad, Crispin Glover-ish Piper is one cool glass of water indeed,

That's some mighty fine tootin' right there.

That all-ogre dance sequence set to a flute-version of the 1978 hit Shake Your Groove Thing in the film has a truly inspired choreography and it actually wowed Shaki and I at one point. If there's anything I dislike about Shrek Forever After, it's the Piper's minuscule amount of screen time.

With any luck, we might see him again in the Shrek spinoff next year.

"Wait, spinoff?! What spinoff?" I hear you gasp agog.

If you haven't heard, they are going to build a movie around Antonio Banderas' character and they are calling it Puss in Boots: Story of an Ogre Killer. Salma Hayek is slated to voice the love interest pussy, Kitty, so that's great news - she has such great chemistry with Banderas (I am thinking of a very specific scene in Desperado, of course). I'd make a joke about cats having six mammaries, but that's probably in poor taste. The bad news is Chris Miller, the bloke who directed Shrek the Third, was tapped to helm this. We shall see how this ship sails.

As a final word in this review, I advice everyone who loved the Shrek films to go see this in theatres before its 3D run runs out - though don't anyone expect How to Train Your Dragon's level of pure visceral joy and visual awe. I personally feel that the 3D enhanced the viewing experience marginally, but the lack of it certainly won't ruin the film for you. So if you're feeling skint, the 2D version should be perfectly serviceable.

Now we'll see if DreamWork's next slew of movies will come up to scratch. MegaMind is next, and a full trailer had just premiered.

P.S. LOL, little grandma kittens.

Holding out for another hero,
k0k s3n w4i


Inn Shan said...

rumple looks like george clooney.

-hui- said...

SOBS!!! I can't watch this is mangalore's sucky cinema!! Argh.. i love shrek and it's one of my favourite so far. Love their lines!! =) Though i must admit, the 3rd was rather disappointing. so whats the rating for this movie?

kenwooi said...

im going to watch this soon! =)

jfook said...

I'm gonna watch it very soon!!!

M-Knight said...

going to watch it later...

Phoebs said...

goin to watch it now? o_o

Himmat Singh said...

Imma gonna catch it soon :)

k0k s3n w4i said...

Inn Shan: really? i thought he looked like a leprechaun, what with the red hair and all.

-hui-: haha, i don't rate movies anymore - i think i explained why to you once. but if shrek 2's a 9, this one's an 8, at least.

kenwooi, jfook, M-Knight, Himmat Singh: you all have my permission to go watch Shrek Forever After.

Phoebs: now now, don't make fun of the link-droppers.

Phoebs said...

sowwy xD

-hui- said...

hey, yeah.. you told me about it before but still, it's nice to get a rating out from you. =D Your choice of movie is often, quite excellent I must say. It's so much easier to compare when there's a rating. and LOL@ phoebe's comment...

J said...

I going to watch this....but thinking 3D or normal one..hmmm

k0k s3n w4i said...

Phoebs: :P

-hui-: i don't really choose the movies i watch - i usually just watch everything that's playing at the theatres. even ones i know which are going to be bad. i usually only review a movie if i really like it or really hate it.

J: i daresay that a 2D screening would be just as good as a 3D one for this movie. but i like to watch a movie the way it's meant to be seen, and shrek forever after is rendered in tru3D after all.