DVD Release Date:  December 7, 2010
Theatrical Release Date:  May 21, 2010
Rating:  PG (for mild action, some rude humor and brief language)
Genre:  Comedy
Run Time:  93 min.
Director:  Mike Mitchell

Actors:  Voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Walt Dohrn, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese


Shrek Forever After is being billed with the alternate title Shrek: The Final Chapter—a spur to get Shrek fans to line up one more time for a story that, purportedly, is the last in the wildly successful series of animated films about a loveable ogre.

Anyone who believes that this Shrek will be the final chapter must have been asleep for the last 30 years, as Hollywood studios have tried to pump life into one sorry film series after another, then, when the box-office tallies dried up, put the films out to pasture for just a few years before reviving them once again (Freddy vs. Jason, anyone?). This Shrek needs only clear a couple hundred million dollars—chump change for this series—to have its studio suddenly rethinking its "final chapter" strategy.

But it's not just box-office receipts that should drive such decisions. Ideally, films that haven't exhausted their premise, and that show some signs of life and freshness, need not be put out to pasture. The fourth in the Shrek series, Forever After looked like a prime candidate to follow the downward trajectory of nearly all film sequels, showing diminishing returns from its predecessors. It's a nice surprise, therefore, to discover that Shrek Forever After has its share of charms. If the creative team behind Shrek can keep this up, the prospect of future Shrek films is far from painful.

The story opens with the king and queen of Far Far Away (voices of John Cleese and Julie Andrews) being tempted into a costly deal with Rumpelstiltskin to rescue their daughter Fiona, who's imprisoned in a castle, in exchange for giving Rumpelstiltskin rule of the kingdom.

The deal is thwarted at the last minute when reports arrive that Fiona (Cameron Diaz) has been freed. Enraged, Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) bides his time until he can make another attempt to rule the land.

That opportunity comes when Shrek (Mike Myers), raising several little ogres with Fiona and playing the harried husband, lets Rumpelstiltskin know that he'd like to exhibit traits expected of an ogre—loud roars and other behavior designed to terrify anyone within ear- and eyeshot. Just for a day, he wants a reprieve from constant diaper changes and home repairs that have mellowed him. Rumpelstiltskin grants him his wish, with a twist: Shrek can have his day of being an alpha ogre in exchange for a day from Shrek's childhood. Shrek takes the offer and has his wish granted before realizing that Rumpelstiltskin has chosen the day Shrek was born, meaning that the Far Far Away of Shrek's vacation day has changed.

Now Rumpelstiltskin rules the land and witches roam the skies, hunting for ogres who have been forced underground. Fiona leads the ogre resistance, but she no longer recognizes Shrek, who was never born and therefore wasn't there to rescue her from her earlier captivity. Neither Donkey (Eddie Murphy) nor a heavyset Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) know Shrek, who must convince them of his plight and earn Fiona's love before the next sunrise. If not, he'll cease to exist.

That last part about ceasing to exist aside, Shrek Forever After is a fun riff on It's a Wonderful Life. The film moves along at a nice clip, without straining for the rapid-fire pop-culture jokes that make so many Dreamworks animated films insubstantial. Rather than pat itself on the back for nonstop witty comments designed to sail over the heads of younger viewers, Shrek Forever After doles out such quips at a measured rate, sticking mainly to the basics of toying with fairy-tale culture in ways that are generally amusing. It also takes time to develop the central relationship between Shrek and Fiona, as well as between Shrek and his sidekicks, without the film feeling overextended or rushed.

Remarkably for a fourth film in a series, Shrek Forever After doesn't feel flaccid but fresh. For once, we have a summer movie that's just what a summer movie should be—a lot of fun.

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity:  "Rumpel-stinkypants"; scatological humor (bodily function noises, etc.).
  • Smoking/Drinking/Drugs:  Shrek and Rumpelstiltskin have a drink, and several empty martini glasses are shown.
  • Sex/Nudity:  Shrek and Fiona are shown lying in bed; kissing.
  • Violence/Crime:  A sightseeing tour-mobile crashes into a tree; flying witches hunt for ogres; flying witches crash into various objects; Shrek dragged by witches flying on brooms; gingerbread man fights animal crackers; Rumpelstiltskin kicks a witch; Fiona puts a knife to Shrek's throat; characters fall off a cliff.