Monday, July 23, 2007
SHREK THE THIRD (2007) - Chris Miller & Raman Hui
When Shrek arrived on the screens in 2001, it was heralded as a major coup for Jeffrey Katzenberg. The producer, having resigned from Disney after helping rejuvenate the company's fortunes in the mid 1980's, Katzenberg was looking for a hit with the studio he founded with David Geffen and Steven Spielberg, Dreamworks SKG. Shrek was seen as the anti-Disney film, and made no bones of having a poke at the other studio. And it didn't hurt matters that Shrek was a funny, smart and subversive movie, appealing to adults while still entertaining the kids. The sequel, Shrek 2, released in 2004, was another hit and retained the anarchic sensibilities of the first film. And this year, yet another three-quel is released in Shrek The Third.
In this third film, we find Shrek and his ogre wife, Fiona shacked up in the castle in the land of Far Far Away. When Shrek's father in law, King Harold takes ill and shuffles loose this mortal coil, it is up to Shrek to fill his boots. But this is a role Shrek isn't up for. Harold tells Shrek of another heir to the throne, a young boy named Arthur. So Shrek, Donkey and Puss in Boots set sail to find the young boy. But as Shrek leaves his wife, she drops the bombshell that she is pregnant, something Shrek doesn't take kindly to. Meanwhile, Prince Charming, incensed at losing out to the throne, and persuing a disappointing acting career, formulates a plane to seize the throne, do away with Shrek, and achieve his own happily ever after.
Director Andrew Adamson, who helmed Shrek and Shrek 2, left the franchise to take on The Chronicles of Narnia, but stayed on as producer of the third film. And so Chris Miller and Raman Hui took over directing duties on this one. And they've taken the film in an interesting direction- they've removed every single iota of comedy from the film. Shrek was hilarious. Subversive, ballsey, and at moments, very poignant. But in Shrek the Third, we have a watered-down, dull and worst of all, safe movie. It seems that for Dreamworks, Shrek has become a bit of a cash cow, and with that, they've lost the balls they had with the first two movies.
First off, this is an animated movie. And when it comes to these types of films, story doesn't have to be intricate or complex. It just has to have enough of a platform to cater for the jokes. And Shrek The Third certainly fits that mould. Which is fine. The problem is, there are no jokes to keep the film interesting. I cant recall one moment that elicited more than a smirk from me, and that is a huge flaw with the film. Gone are the clever and witty pot-shots at Disney. Gone are the little jokes that would go over the heads of the kids. The writers just play it absolutely safe and formulaic.
Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas return once again as Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and Puss, respectively. And they all do their jobs perfectly fine. But, as with the rest of the film, they're just going through the motions. The addition of Justin Timberlake as Arthur is somewhat predictable, and where as there could be plenty of room for a great send up of Timberlake's fame, they've instead made Arthur just another nerdy kid with self-esteem problems. Sure, he doesn't want the crown, but you know full well what's going to happen in the end. The Arthurian legend is very lightly touched upon as Merlin (Eric Idle, the second Python in the franchise after John Cleese as King Harold) makes an appearance, and I kept expecting some reference to Excalibur and the lady in the lake, but to no avail. Disappointing. There must be a wealth of jokes in there.
The animation is top quality. But that's to be expected from Dreamworks. Nothing new to report there really. I guess it's up to Disney's Ratatouille to wow us in the next few weeks. Overall, Shrek the Third is a huge disappointment. There is literally nothing here for adults. I know, it's a kids movie. But after Shrek, which had something for everyone, this really is a let down. It seems the summer of the three-quel blunders on with disappointment after disappointment.