The Aisle Steat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Shrek Forever After
It definitely isn't easy being green for Shrek.

Shrek Forever After is the fourth and final installment in the popular animated series. The first two are among my all-time favorite animated features, while the third marked a notable drop in quality; I still liked it, but clearly it wasn't in the same league as the two previous films. This new one is slightly better than the third, although I do think it's time for the series to quit while it's still ahead.

In the opening moments, we find Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) experiencing a bit of ennui. He loves wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and his three little ogre babies, yet he's also tired of the repetitiveness of domestic life. In an unwise move, he strikes up a deal with the weaselly Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohrn, a member of the art department who did such a great job temp voicing the character that they kept him). The deal calls for Shrek to be allowed to have his old life back for just one day the life he had before Fiona. Rumplestiltskin, unbeknownst to Shrek, is seeking revenge for a past slight. He tricks the ogre, sending him to an alternate reality where Fiona is a freedom fighter, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is a slave, and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has become an enormous sloth. Once he realizes that he's been tricked, Shrek has to find a way to break the agreement and get things back to the way they were.

I think that Shrek Forever After is probably the most unusual movie in the series, in that it is tonally quite different from the other three. It doesn't have the constant rapid fire jokes and pop culture references that seemed to define the franchise, instead giving us a more mature (and borderline dark) story of an ogre in mid-life crisis. I guess it's understandable that the filmmakers wanted to get away from the incessant joking, especially since that going-over-the-heads-of-the-children-in-the-audience style has been stolen by too many animated movies. Still, while there are some laughs here, I wish that there had been a lot more of them. It's kind of jarring to go into a Shrek movie expecting to laugh frequently, only to find that the jokes are fewer and further between.

While that's somewhat of a disappointment, enough about the sequel works that I still enjoyed it. Yes, the story is more serious, but these characters have earned it. Shrek and his crew are some of the most memorable of recent years, so they have earned audience empathy. I found Shrek's plight really touching, as he realizes what he had at the exact moment he stands to lose it. There's a very sweet message one that children will relate to about the importance of appreciating family.

The animation is typically fun to look at, and the 3-D is well utilized. You know those goo-goo kitty eyes Puss in Boots makes when he wants something? Well, wait until you see them popping right out at you. The grand finale, which involves flying, is also very impressive.

I do recommend Shrek Forever After to people who, like me, have a fondness for these characters and this world, and who want to see just a bit more of them. The weaknesses of the picture suggest that there really isn't anywhere else to go beyond this, but as long as they stop now, while the goodwill is still there, the series can always be remembered as a pleasurable one.

( out of four)

Shrek Forever After is rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.