A big hit for the summer, Shrek The Third is the third installment of the wildly popular Shrek franchise. Since bursting onto the scene with the original Shrek, released in 2001, which was a bit of a surprise hit with its fractured take on fairy tales, the first sequel ended up being a monster hit when it arrived in 2004. And now, like clockwork, the third installment arrived earlier this year and, of course, was a hit. However, while the DVD packaging boasts “The Best Shrek Yet,” I just can’t agree with that sentiment. The first was good yes, but as the film series moved on, it seemed as though each installment become a weak imitation of the previous flick. Yes, the story of Shrek and Fiona progressed, but it still seems like the overall premise has stalled. Before I go any further, let’s get that pesky synopsis out of the way.
Get ready for Thirds – the greatest fairy tale never told continues with a brand new, hilarious comedy of royal proportions. When Shrek married Fiona the last thing he had in mind was becoming the next King of Far Far Away. But when Shrek’s father-in-law, King Harold, suddenly croaks, that is exactly what he faces. Recruiting Donkey and Puss In Boots for a new quest, Shrek sets out to bring back the rightful heir to the throne. Meanwhile back in the kingdom, Fiona’s jilted Prince Charming storms the city with an army of fairy tale villains to seize the throne. Fiona and a band of princesses must stop him to ensure there will be a kingdom left to rule!
Alright, back to the review! It’s been six years since the original Shrek hit, a movie that skewered fairy tales and basically ushered in a new type of animated film – the self-mocking fairy tale. We’ve had quite a few of those, but none measured up to the original Shrek, which still holds up today. Shrek 2 was a fair follow up, but lacked the bite and surprise of the original. Now, we get Shrek The Third, which seems to fall flat, story-wise, and seems even tamer.
The story premise itself is fine, but I find the execution to be lacking. The jokes seem not as solid as before, with some coming across as tired retreads of previous jokes from the earlier films. The movie seems to be going through the predictable motions of sending Shrek out on some quest and, on route, having hilarity ensue. Now, there are some good jokes here and there. The whole “high school” sequence was well done, but, really, aside from that and the sequence where Donkey and Puss In Boots switch bodies, the rest seems fairly standard. Yes, there are funny moments laced throughout the movie, but they seem far and few in-between. The character of Arthur, played by Justin Timberlake, comes off as formulaic and definitely could have been handled better. He’s yet another character who has to “grow up” and accept new responsibilities handed down to him. Off course, by the end of the movie, every character learns their respective lessons and faces up to their own doubts and fears. Eh.
Shrek fans will surely enjoy the latest installment, but, personally, I found it to be a bit stale and toned down from the previous movies. Since the original Shrek, fractured fairy tales have become the norm for the animated film market, and Shrek The Third seems to fall into the trap of simply being a stale imitator of the original. The Shrek franchise will definitely need a fresh kick in the behind if the films are to remain popular. They have the next installment planned (called Shrek Goes Fourth . . . ugh.) so something tells me we may end up just getting more of the same. Shrek The Third is showing cracks and beautiful CGI can’t cover them up for much longer. And, is it me, or do the Shrek babies look . . . very creepy. I don’t know what it is, but they just look creepy as hell.
However, I feel the need to point out the amazing animation in this movie. There were times when I was in awe of just how amazing this animation was. Whether it was the amazing scenery, how detailed crowd scenes were, or just close-ups of character faces, I was amazed at how the CGI for this film series has really changed and drastically improved. Each film has seen a leap of quality in terms of animation and Shrek The Third is no different. The animation is really something to behold and, if you can’t stand the story or even the characters, you at least have some amazing visual eye-candy to keep occupied by.
But what about the DVD? Will that keep you occupied once the movie is over? Well, much like the previous Shrek DVD releases, the extras are pretty light. While the list of extras may seem substantial, they really add up to not a whole lot at the end of the day. The extras include “Shrek’s Guide to Parenthood,” where Donkey, Puss in Boots, Pinocchio and Gingy offer their parenting tips for Shrek & Fiona. After that we get the Worcestershire Academy Yearbook, a couple featurettes on the cast of the film and the behind the scenes work on the film’s animation. There are a handful of deleted scenes, more on the tech work before the flick, a Donkey Dance music video, which is thirty seconds of Donkey riffing on the song “Safety Dance,” some CGI bloopers, the DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox, which contains music from other DreamWorks flicks, and some kid-oriented material in the DreamWorks Kids section.
If you’re going with the HD-DVD edition of the film, they have some exclusive bonus features including a feature-length picture-in-picture storyboard reel with a contextual branch to lost scenes, the ability for viewers to make their own DVD menus, web-enabled trivia tracks, a movie guide, and a digital coloring book. While that looks like a lot of extras on both release, it actually adds up to a lot of fluff and little real substance. However, the audio and video is really excellent for the standard DVD, but, as you can expect, much better in the HD-DVD release. Regardless, both formats offer great transfers for their respective platforms, resulting in a detailed look at the stunning CGI animation.
Once the credits rolled, I felt somewhat indifferent toward Shrek The Third, finding it to be simply an “alright” movie. The franchise seems to be losing its bite, and it really shows in the third installment. Fans of the movie franchise will likely enjoy the film, though probably not as much as the previous installments. Shrek The Third is worth a Rental, but you won’t miss anything by skipping it. The DVD is definitely aimed at the younger crowd, though there are a few extras the adults may find interesting, specifically a look at the tech work that goes in to creating such a movie. Overall, if you’re looking for a sharp animated film to watch, you’d be better off checking out the recently released Ratatouille (DVD review) than checking out the latest Shrek flick. If you’re a fan of the franchise, I’m sure you’ll find what you’re looking for within.
Shrek The Third is now available on DVD and HD-DVD.