Eye For Film >> Movies >> Shrek The Third (2007) Film Review
Shrek The Third
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
"Three times," as Oscar Wilde said, "begins to look like carelessness." Perhaps he didn't mean it quite that way, but it's not at all clear what the producers of this overblown nonsense intended. The original Shrek was an excellent movie, right up there with The Princess Bride as one of the medium's most successful, entertaining fairytales; but all it had to offer by way of a franchise was a group of characters who, while they remain likable, only have so much left to say. It would be easy to like Shrek if we were watching him doing his shopping, but it would hardly be cinema. Whilst the flimsy plot we were offered in the first sequel just about sufficed, this one is really pushing it.
In this plot we return to the land of Far, Far Away to find the old king about to croak (and not in his familiar way) and Shrek threatened with the miserable prospect of becoming a monarch unless he can find the 'one true heir', a kid called Arthur whose relation to everyone else is shrouded in mystery and who lives pretty much as an orphan, an unhappy inmate of a distant high school. Just to complicate things, Princess Fiona has discovered she's pregnant, so our hero must deal with his angst about the prospect of becoming a father whilst reluctantly bonding with the kid, an emo Justin Timberlake so devoid of personality that it's not hard to see how he was initially misplaced.
The trouble is that all this is really grown-up stuff, handled much better in serious grown-up films, and it doesn't play well to a young audience. Sure, there are still jokes about farting and belching and Shrek still pulls funny faces, but as far as young fans are concerned there's no real story. Cue the dastardly Prince Charming taking advantage of Shrek's absence to try and seize the throne which was meant to be his.
This story could work - the trouble is that even the most naive viewer would find it hard not to feel a little sympathy for the ousted prince (and who's to say he'd make a bad king, anyway?), yet there's to be no justice for him, no relief, and not a bit of narrative sympathy. The result is that one feels as if one has been invited to join the popular kids in laughing mercilessly at the most pitiable boy in the playground. Sure, his desperate antics might be genuinely funny, but it's an uncomfortable position to say the least.
Shrek the Third does have its good moments. It's nice to see the Dragon back, and her half-donkey children are simply adorable. Antonio Banderas is delightful as ever as Puss in Boots, for all that he doesn't get enough to do. The high school politics and cliques at Arthur's school are amusingly presented and the fairytale princesses whom Fiona recruits to help her save the kingdom demonstrate that the writers have not entirely lost their touch.
Perhaps there could be hope for a fourth instalment, but only if they quit writing it by committee, drop their attempts to imitate Ingmar Bergman and get back to the sort of themes which their core audience really want. Otherwise it seems that Shrek is doomed to living tediously ever after.Reviewed on: 31 Jul 2007