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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Shrek the Third - it doesn't sucketh; three and a half stars, August 26, 2007
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This review is from: Shrek the Third (Widescreen Edition) (DVD)
Some SPOILERS follow.

Even though Shrek - Sir Shrek, that is - and Princess Fiona have become a fixture at the royal court of the kingdom of Far Far Away, it doesn't mean that our ogrish hero has to like it. With Fiona's father having been transformed into a frog (see SHREK 2) and then falling ill, Shrek grumpily chips in by undertaking some of his dad-in-law's royal chores. But the mantle of the purple settles uncomfortably on Shrek's shoulders (and it probably itches, too). All he really wants to do is take Fiona and go back to his beloved swamps. But that would have to wait when the fast expiring King names Shrek as his successor. But Shrek doesn't want the crown and so, with Donkey and Puss in Boots in tow and again providing sidekick duties, he goes on a journey to fetch the next guy in line for the throne - Prince Arthur. Of course, there are obstacles awaiting Shrek. For one thing, Fiona lays down some news which distresses our ogre. Then Prince Charming, who's been reduced to entertaining in dinner theater, decides to make another bid for his own "happily ever after." Accordingly, he manages to enlist a heapload of fairy tale villains (Captain Hook, Rumpelstiltskin, the Headless Horseman, the Cyclops, several villainous trees, and more...).

SHREK THE THIRD, while being a fun and funny flick, is the least of the three Shrek movies. Of course, the element of surprise, which made the first Shrek film such an uberhit as it riotously turned fairy tale tradition on its ear, is long since gone. The sequel provided us with the kingdom of Far Far Away, which paved the way for even more snarky, nudge-in-the-rib stabs at pop culture in general and at the Disney film factory line in particular. Some of the wit is still here in SHREK THE THIRD, though not as razor sharp. The humor still made me smile, though it wasn't quite as subversive or as disarming. Basically, it's all stuff I'd seen already. I was waiting for something new to knock me off my feet. It didn't happen.

The movie suffers most when the spotlight is on its newest character Prince Arthur. As voiced by Justin Timberlake, "Artie's" tepid personality proves to be a detriment not so easily brushed aside. Artie is introduced as a loser teen and then, as the film progresses, supposedly shows his mettle when he reveals his smarts by throwing a crying fit and, later on, by unveiling his gift of gab (where was this when he was getting picked on in medieval high school?). To me, Artie comes off as wheedling and even a bit disingenuous. The fact that he took screen time away from Shrek and that he has a significant role to play in the film's resolution just doesn't sit well with me.

Points are also taken away for not giving heftier roles to Donkey and Puss in Boots. These two great characters are pretty much relegated to the background. Their one highlight sub-plot, which has them switching bodies, doesn't pay off with anything significant and is, therefore, superfluous and lame to the nth power. It was funny, though, to watch Puss, while in Donkey's form, attempt to use his "cute" power.

Despite a nagging feeling of "Is that it?" I have to point out that there's still so much going for this film. For one thing, the old reliables are at it again. Mike Meyers as Shrek, Cameron Diaz as Fiona, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, and Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots have their characters down pat and their voice performances are seamless. Meanwhile, John Cleese as the frog king is priceless in his one prolonged cameo. Newcomers of note are Eric Idle as the slightly skewed Merlin and several SNL actresses portraying various fairy tale princesses. Rupert Everett also returns as that royal swine Prince Charming and is majestically over the top, while Ian McShane has several standout moments as Captain Hook.

The incorporation of classic rock music adds a nice touch to several scenes, although it's a bit odd to hear Led Zeppelin, Heart, and Wings in an animation. But, hey, any chance to hear "Barracuda" or "Live and Let Die" is a good thing. The animation? Wow! It's amazing. If anything, the CG is even better than in the prior Shrek flicks. For example, the expressions on the characters' faces are realistically conveyed. Even when groaning thru the one scene of Prince Charming tossing his hair in slow motion, I still couldn't help but note the excellence of the graphics. So, yes, a well-deserved pat on the back for DreamWorks.

SHREK THE THIRD has already made piles of money and stands to make even more with the dvd release. And, apparently, a fourth installment is in the works, as well as a Puss in Boots spin-off. While this third film doesn't live up to the quality and originality of the first two, it still boasts several sparkling moments, the aforementioned frog king scene being only one of 'em. There are also some nice bits with the Princesses Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. I also liked that the medieval high school girls spoke with "thees" and "thous" but in a Valley accent. And, of course and always, at the heart of this franchise, there is Shrek, the cantankerous ogre with the heart of gold. True, he doesn't do much here (his supporting cast supply most of the smiting) but he does provide the grounding element of the movie and remains the preferred point of view character for the audience. As more Shrek movies are churned out, it's nice to see that some things do stay the same.

SHREK THE THIRD elicits some laughs, plenty of smiles, and, sadly, a few yawns. The good will garnered from the first two installments goes quite a ways in carrying this film. Ultimately, I do consider the time and money to have been well spent on this one. So, yes, I got my Shrek on, now go get yours.
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