Oh dear me. The makers of Shrek the Third have really upset some film critics, haven't they? The film opened in the US in May to an almost universal panning — some reviewers said it feels tired and sluggish, some said it's formulaic and has jumped the shark, while others said it's flat, pointless, rushed, bland and mediocre. Harsh, way harsh.
Honestly, it's not as bad as they make out, it's really not. And I think that many of those critics may have forgotten that, at their heart, the Shrek films are basically for kids. While it lacks the surprise and originality of the first Shrek, this new ogre on the block still has a few chuckles up its sleeve; it simply lacks the big belly-laughs we got the first time around. But that's to be expected — by the time you get to the third film in any series,it's all become comfortable and familiar.
As ever, this Shrek has a mighty slim plot — but when have the Shrek films ever been concerned with plot or story? In the first one, Shrek has to rescue a princess to get his swamp back; he rescues the princess and beats the bad guy. In the second one, Shrek has to go and meet the in-laws, and beat another bad guy. This time, his father-in-law croaks (of course he does, he's a frog!) and Shrek is the next in line for the throne as king of Far Far Way. Which, of course, the grumpy old bastard doesn't want; he's happy at home in his swamp, eating crap and farting his days away. But there's an out — if he can track down Fiona's long-lost cousin Arthur (yes, THAT Arthur) and convince him to be king, he's home free. So Shrek sets off with faithful companions Donkey and Puss in Boots to hunt down the lad. (A small point here: I don't think they had nearly as much fun as they could have with the whole King Arthur mythology).
Throw in a secondary plot involving Prince Charming recruiting a bunch of fairytale villains (Captain Hook, the ugly stepsisters, etc) to take over Far Far Away while Shrek is absent, and Fiona being pregnant (hey, can everyone say Shrek 4?) and we're set up for a fairly decent, entertaining film that satisfies, but won't blow you away. It concentrates a little too much on action rather than comedy, and Puss and Donkey are given way too little to do (apart from some pretty lame body-swap stuff involving Merlin the magician being a little rusty). As you would expect the animation is brilliant, and some of the best moments in the film involve Fiona and her squad of "Angels". Let's just hope that the writers work that bit harder on the gags for Shrek 4, OK?
• Official Site
• Shrek the Third at IMDb