The fourth installment of Shrek is absolutely wonderful and the team is true to its roots by including humor and entertainment equally for children and adults.
The magic that Shrek brought to audiences in 2001 is once again captured by the DreamWorks team in Shrek Forever After, which is presented in 3-D but would be just as enjoyable in the standard two-dimensional format. While the second and third Shrek installments stumbled and lapsed into repetition, Forever After is bursting with as much originality and inventiveness as the first chapter.
When we rejoin the story this time, Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) have settled comfortably into the swamp with their three children. Shrek, however, doesn’t feel comfortable at all with the predictable and monotonous turn his life has taken. He is no longer a feared ogre and has become a local celebrity in Far Far Away with villagers begging for his autograph and children demanding that he entertain them. Fiona, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) all seem perfectly content to relive the same day over and over ad nauseam, but Shrek is very quickly losing his mind.
Coincidentally, Shrek meets Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who offers to give Shrek one day of his old life back which Shrek is happy to trade for losing one day from his childhood. When he is transported to his alternate world, Shrek is initially thrilled that villagers are running in terror at the sound of his roar. Soon, though, he realizes that Rumpelstiltskin has swindled him and that the world he has chosen is much worse than he could have ever imagined.
In this (supposedly) final chapter of the Shrek story, the performances by the actors are by far the most delightful aspect of the movie. Murphy and Banderas feel fresh and have some of the movie’s most hilarious moments. Diaz gets a chance to play Fiona in a different style and is surprisingly convincing in her more dominant and commanding role. Even the smaller performances are wonderful, like Craig Robinson who voices the ogre Cookie and lands some of the best lines in the movie.
The real star of Shrek Forever After, though, is Dohrn as Rumpelstiltskin, possibly the best character to appear in the four movies. Dohrn, who is actually the head of the story department at DreamWorks Animation, makes his character leap off the screen by making Rumpelstiltskin maniacal, manipulative and hysterical. Rumple is constantly alternating hairstyles by demanding his “angry hair” or “speech hair” to fully convey his emotions to his audience in the movie and in the theater (a truly brilliant character trait for a Lilliputian narcissist with the world’s worst Napoleon complex).
Not surprisingly, Shrek Forever After hasn’t escaped the current fad of 3-D production and this is, unfortunately, its only downfall. The technology doesn’t enhance the viewing experience and actually detracts from the enjoyment at times when the characters are merely standing and talking and the background animation looks flat and lifeless by comparison.
The fourth installment of Shrek is absolutely wonderful and the team is true to its roots by including humor and entertainment equally for children and adults. The movie is not quite as good as the original, but it’s as close as they have gotten since then. | Matthew F. Newlin