MOVIE OF THE WEEK #1 (5/21/10) SHREK THE FINAL CHAPTER
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Cleese, Julie Andrews, Kathy Griffin, Antonio Banderas, Lake Bell, Craig Robinson, Kristen Schaal, Meredith Vieira and Walt Dohrn
WRITER: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke
DIRECTOR: Mike Mitchell
WEB SITE: http://www.shrek.com/
THE PLOT: Ever since he became familiar with all the people and places of Far Far Away, Shrek The FInal Chapter finds our favorite green ogre(voiced once again by Mike Myers) still trying to adjust to his new life as ogre/husband to princess Fiona (the returning Cameron Diaz). Like Donkey (the venerable voice of Eddie Murphy), Shrek is married with children and life is good ... And repetitive. It's all a bit much for Shrek, which leads to an outburst at his kids' first birthday party.
Enter Rumpelstiltskin (voiced by relative newcomer Walt Dohrn), Far Far Away's ultimate opportunist.
Rumpelstiltskin, you see, is deal maker - and back when Princess Fiona was locked in the tower and the true nature of her "curse" was unknown, her parents (voiced by John Cleese and Julie Andrews) almost signed away their kingdom to him to break it. Being so close and yet so far away at the same time from getting what he wants, ol' Rumpel wasn't too happy with how that all went down.
But back to Shrek. Shrek just wishes he could go back to the way things were and be a regular ol' feared by villagers, playing in the swamp ogre again. Rumpelstiltskin can make that happen for him for a day - all he has to do is give up a day of his life in exchange ...
What Shrek doesn't foresee, however, is how one day can forever change not only his life, but the lives of all those around him, too.
THE TAKE: The Shrek film cannon goes sort of like this - first film, great; second film, arguably better; third film, wow, that's a terrible drop off in quality! Apparently the fine folks at DreamWorks must have realized this and said 'What can we do to take the bad taste of Shrek the Third out of our mouths and those of the collective public yet let them know at the same time we won't keep milking this franchise anymore than we already did with that film?"
The result of that hypothetical question is The Final Chapter a.k.a. "Shrek Forever After." Forever After does what it sets out to do and that's deliver 90 minutes of entertainment, no more, no less. The 3D aspect works well when used - unless the cut I saw at the advance screening wasn't finished, I swear someone forgot to animate the last 60 minutes (save for the credits) in 3D - and truly dose add to the overall experience of the film unlike some other recent releases (I'm looking at you, Clash of the Titans!).
Whereas Shrek as a character (both in the movie and for the audience) is a bit a long in the tooth, the film works overall as it delves further into the key emotional aspect of the series, that being his inability to appreciate what other people add to his life. That in turn allows the other main characters to crack-wise as Shrek finds himself in peril in the alternate universe of Far, Far Away (it'll make sense once you see the film), providing for a few LOL moments via pop culture references and well-crafted gags that produce some true LOL moments. The film still has heart, but it sticks to the simplicity of a common romantic comedy staple: A guy who doesn't realize what he has 'till its gone, no more, no less.
The film's true winner, however, may be the one you won't come to the theater expecting as Rumpelstiltskin is really the film's driving force. Whereas Antonio Banderas provides an excellent turn as a flabbier version of Puss in Boots as does Craig Robinson as an ogre chef (he really needed more lines!), Walt Dohrn provides one of the best performances in recent voice acting history as Rumpelstiltskin. His work is proof big names or those with big talent in live action pictures aren't automatically the best choices for animation. Dohrn's energy give his character a nice mix of motivated evil, cowardly willian and light-hearted fun akin to Freddy Krueger (not the new one, the old one played by Robert Englund) minus all the gratuitous violence; I'm talking about an animated movie here!
Think of it this way: While the fine folks at Pixar (who will likely prove this point with their upcoming Toy Story 3) always seem to find a way to take their characters in new, unexpected and evolving directions, Shrek The Final Chapter simply closes out a story that, while not attempting to break new ground, simply provides a nice ending with a few laughs, a few tears ... And a chance to more than likely sell a few more DVDs and ogre ears!
RATING (OUT OF FOUR POSSIBLE BUCKETS OF POPCORN):
*Yes, I am STILL too lazy to come up with a half a bucket of popcorn bucket, so this is really a 2 and a half bucket rating!