Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Shrek the Third

The third movie in the Shrek franchise was actually one of the better ones. The first movie was decent, and the second one fell on its face. This movie, however, had several writers, and two directors, and it feels like it. The movie reeks of being created by a committee, not a single creative voice. Andrew Adamson was replaced by Chris Miller, and Raman Hui in the director's seat, and half a dozen writers contributed. On the plus side, though, Shrek the Third is a much more story oriented movie than the second one, with for focus on plot, that just gag after gag. The previous movie was nothing but one fairy tale parody after another, while the third installment does a little better job story wise.

Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Rupert Everett, and John Cleese reprise their roles, this time joined by Justin Timberlake, rounding out the star studded cast. One advantage to making a sequel is that you don't have to spend much (or any) time on character development, and can just jump straight into the story at hand. Here, Shrek (Meyers) and his wife, Princess Fiona (Diaz) are living in the kingdom of Far Far Away, which is ruled over by Fiona's parents (Cleese and Andrews). The two were planning to return to Shrek's swamp to settle down, but their plans are hampered when the king dies, and wants Shrek to take over the throne, unless he can track down his next of kin, Arthur (Timberlake). The thick of the story involves the conflict between Shrek and Prince Charming (Everett) who is trying to usurp the throne, and while Arthur struggles with his desire not to be king. It's not the thickest plot ever, but it's still better than some.

Despite the writers' new found stills at plot development, the movie is comprised mostly of a series of gags, that never run deeper than the surface. There's no real long-running comedy- once one gag is finished, the next completely independent one is set up. Bare in mind, many of these jokes are funny, but juxtaposing modern day humor in a fairy tale setting only works so many times. There was one rather funny scene in which Shrek, Donkey (Murphy) and Puss (Banderas) try to find Arthur- at a high school. There was a range of humor found here that could appeal to a wide range, including a possibly inappropriate gag of teens stumbling out of a smoked out van filled with murr. It's gags like these, however, that keep an older audience interested.

The animation was of the high quality that I've grown to expect from Dream Works. The rich engaging backgrounds, and wide range of characters simply astounded me. I don't think I have seen an animated movie with so many unique characters. There were over 20 primary characters, and over 4,000 individual supporting characters- 1,000 in one scene alone. These was the strongest part of the movie, setting a new bar for complexity in animation.

The acting of course was very good, which should be expected from a cast of that caliber, and the animation was spectacular. None of this can make-up for the substandard writing, and mostly unfunny gags.


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