Shrek the Third Review
By Joe Lozito
All Ogre Again
Time was, an ogre would spend his days in a swamp, wallowing in his own filth and surrounded by all manner of creepy-crawlies. Nowadays, in "Shrek the Third", you can find Dreamworks' beloved animated creation nestled snuggly in a comfy bed with his new bride beside him. That's bound to change an ogre. Indeed, all this time spent in the kingdom of Far Far Away has noticeably mellowed the big green guy. He's like Ice Cube in the "Are We There Yet?" movies. Ol' Shrek even seems to have lost his accent. He sounds less Scottish and more like, well, Mike Myers. He even looks less like an ogre and more, dare I say it, Schwarzeneggerian. I swear I even spotted him wearing make-up. The bottom line is, this third - and possibly last non-direct-to-DVD - installment of the once edgy animated franchise isn't your grandfather's ogre - or even your grandnephew's. But it's still good for a laugh.
Y'know it's hard out here for an ogre. Not only is his wife (who converted to ogre in "Shrek 2") on the nest, but the death of his king-in-law leaves a royal void that Shrek must either fill or find a suitable heir to take the throne. It turns out there is one human who fits the bill, a young high school loser by the name of Arthur "Artie" Pendragon (Justin Timberlake, adding to his list of vocal skills). So Shrek, along with Donkey and Puss (still voiced with admirably consistent funniness by Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas) set out to Worcestershire High in search of the boy who might be king.
The "Shrek" series is always at its best when doling out quick slapdash visual gags, and the scenes in Worcestershire are a fine example. Less so is a sequence involving a batty old magician (Merlin, natch) voiced by none other than Eric Idle. Never had the franchise seemed so neutered. Later on, happily, much fun is had with classic fairy-tale characters, none more so than Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White (voiced by a who's-who of comediennes - Amy Sedaris, Maya Rudolph, Cheri Oteri and Amy Poehler, respectively) who turn up as a kind of "Shrek's Angels" to fight along side Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz).
Co-directed by first-timers Chris Miller and Raman Hui, "The Third" has less of the pizzazz of the first two, and the script - by half a dozen writers - takes a while to warm up. But once it gets going, the impressive vocal cast - many of whom do their best work behind a microphone - keeps the pace snappy. The odd contradiction at work in "Shrek The Third" is that, while it looks like a children's movie it deals with the most adult themes of any in the series (fatherhood, legacy, etc). But if we've learned one thing from that big green lug, it's not to judge solely on appearance. I'm not sure there's enough gas in "Shrek" (pun intended) for another film, but "The Third" is a fitting capper. It might be best to let the big guy live happily ever after.