It’s summer season at the multiplexes, and this brings out the inevitable sequels of variable quality. Shrek Forever After (in 3D!) is a pleasant surprise, a vast improvement over the last installment and while it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the first Shrek, it does have generous helpings of wit and poignancy in addition to the visual wizardry.
In case you haven’t heard by now, Shrek (Mike Myers) is married to the love of his life Fiona (Cameron Diaz), but in a bit of a rut, what with three kids, a slew of responsibilities, as well as that pesky tour bus that arrives daily to point out the now-celebrity ogre—who by the way, hasn’t been feeling ogre-ish. Shrek enters into an ill-advised contract with an evil Rumpelstilskin (well-voiced by the animator Walt Dohrm), which plunges Shrek into a nightmare resembling It’s a Wonderful Life—and from which Shrek can emerge from if he wins Fiona’s love again-if only he could find her. Of course, Shrek must befriend-again- Donkey and a somewhat slovenly Puss in Boots (Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas in good vocal form). Needless to say, it’s all very enjoyable. The pop-culture references and visual gags are just as present (and enjoyable) as ever, but the George Bailey echoes of Shrek’s plight bring some adult themes of discontent and dissatisfaction to a predominantly fairy-tale landscape. When Shrek gets to be an ogre again, we feel his momentary joy in his recapturing the past even though we know–something wicked this way comes. In the end, the kids will enjoy the 3D effects, and the adults should enjoy the good humor along with the darker elements. In many ways, Shrek Forever After is the perfect ending for the series—let’s hope it ends here.
Mike Peros is an author whose new book, DAN DURYEA - HEEL WITH A HEART, the first biography of classic Hollywood's iconic villain, was recently published by the University Press of Mississippi. He is also an educator with a passion for movies ever since he saw John Wayne riding toward the bad guys, reins between his teeth, in TRUE GRIT. Some of his favorite films include THE BAND WAGON, THE WILD BUNCH, OUT OF THE PAST, THE SILENT PARTNER, IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER ( a great musical--if you're a Gene Kelly fan, what are you waiting for?), and KONGA with the great Michael Gough.