I can’t believe I’ve now sat through four Shrek movies and I don’t even have any fucking kids to excuse all those wasted hours. Christ, the things I do for you people!
But seriously, folks, Shrek Forever After (or possibly Shrek: The Final Chapter ; due to last-minute marketing decisions, nobody seems quite sure what the actual title is anymore) is such a desultory, half-assed slog that I longed for the manic, dated, too-eager-to-please pop-culture references that stood in for jokes in previous awful Shrek pictures. Making fun of Ricky Martin years after he faded into obscurity was embarrassing, but at least it felt like they were trying. Clueless, but trying.
With its bare-bones animation—the empty backgrounds stink of direct-to-DVD sequel— Shrek Forever After attempts to reboot the series with an It’s A Wonderful Life scenario. Mike Myers’ charmless, crudely sketched ogre gets fed up with all the burping, farting and shitting of his malformed babies, wishing for the simpler, more solitary existence of his old undomesticated life.
Dastardly Rumplestiltskin (voiced by in-house techie Walt Dorn, allowing you to hear cost-cutting measures in full effect) strikes him a deal, turning our titular green monster into Jimmy Stewart after he was never born. Shrek wanders around a blighted, dystopic Far, Far Away where he has to meet everybody all over again. It’s an implicit acknowledgment that there’s nowhere else to go with these characters, so the only way to fill 90 minutes is to start the entire series over from scratch.
Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots is now wicked fat, which is pretty much the only joke. Eddie Murphy’s Donkey—once the highlight of these pictures—sings random soul songs but has nothing funny to say. Cameron Diaz’s Princess Fiona has quite ludicrously been turned into one of those sword-wielding warrior princesses who anachronistically pop up in crap like Robin Hood a lot these days as a sop to female audiences. There are a great many prolonged battle sequences, but no wit or invention.
The final insult is that Shrek Forever After is one of the first features being rolled out in IMAX 3-D under theater owners’ new draconian pricing system. After Avatar ’s absurd success, the once-exclusive IMAX loosened its standards; now pretty much any decent-sized screen can call itself such, running 2K digital projectors boasting resolution standards less impressive than my Dad’s television instead of the old 70mm film. Comedian Aziz Ansari is on point in calling it LIE-MAX.
Theater owners are jumping on board, as this “added value” allows them to gouge gullible consumers for almost $20 per ticket. It’ll cost about a C-note to take your family to see Shrek Forever After . That feels like more than was spent on the film itself.