It seems that great movie franchises start to lose some steam after the second film. Even a lovable green ogre like Shrek has fallen victim to this curse.
“Shrek the Third” attempted to bring back the parody, humor and take-home public service messages that gave the first film an Academy Award in 2001 and record profits to its 2004 sequel.
The film also has many of its original cast members back, including the voices of Shrek (Mike Myers), Fiona (Cameron Diaz), Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas).
Newcomers of “Saturday Night Live” fame played characters such as Snow White (Amy Poehler) and Rapunzel (Maya Rudolph). Even Regis Philbin and Larry King made cameo appearances as women with men’s voices.
Apparently, the film is trying to stand out with other blockbusters like “Spider-man 3” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.” As a result, some of its quality has declined. For instance, Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews) rarely speaks in the latest film, a total waste of Andrews’s talent and experience.
“Shrek the Third” took aim at the Camelot legend for most of the film. Along with the main hero Arthur (better known as Artie), Guinevere, Lancelot, and Merlin made cameo appearances.
Shrek’s amphibian father-in-law (John Cleese) passes away, making Shrek the new leader of the Far, Far Away Kingdom. But Shrek did not want to be king, and wanted someone else to rule the land.
Desperate for an heir to the throne, Shrek, Donkey and Puss In Boots set sail to bring Fiona’s relative Artie (Justin Timberlake) home. In Shrek’s absence, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) managed to convince the “villains” to make him the new leader of Far, Far Away.
The phrase “Happily Ever After” takes on a new meaning when the nerdy Artie, with the help of Shrek and friends, has to fight for the crown against Prince Charming.
Shrek, who is mostly reluctant to play a father role in his own life, actually counsels the boy like a dad.
As with the previous films, “Shrek the Third” skewered both fairytales and pop culture. It used characters like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and Rapunzel to mock baby showers, fairy tale romance and girl power for comic effect.
The villains Captain Hook and the Headless Horseman were given a softer side, but that shows up later. The film also parodies “Charlie’s Angels” (when Fiona and the princesses do their ninja poses) and “Harold and Kumar” (when gingerbread man Gingi has a near-death experience).
Unfortunately, the film lacks about half the wit and originality that has made the Shrek franchise famous. Slapstick humor is used (sometimes quite literally) to pass over the dragging parts of the film.
There is also a lack of visual imagery (i.e. “Versarchery”) that brought laughs to grown-ups and children alike.
The film is not a total loss, though. Donkey and Puss In Boots retained the wit and crass attitude that made them rival favorites with Shrek.
There is even a part in the film where, thanks to a fluke in Merlin’s magic spell, they switch voices, character portrayal, and body parts.
The film also redeemed itself with inherently complex jokes. It manages to keep “Family Guy” elements of humor in certain parts while being sensitive to children’s ears at the same time. For example, Pinocchio thwarts Prince Charming’s efforts with answers like, “I don’t know where he’s not.”
Overall, “Shrek the Third” will appeal to die-hard Shrek fans and children alike. But to appreciate its worth, watch the film when there are no whiny, hyper kids in the theater.