In 2001 Dreamworks pictures took a risk by challenging the big guys across the street (those big guys being Disney) by delving into what as at the time a monopoly market in the animated feature film market.   Of course, throughout recorded human history (or at least since 1937) that market was dominated by the Walt Disney Company.  But at the begning of the 21st century a green monster and his hardly-tolerated sidekick donkey, both voiced by Saturday Night Live alums parodied, lampooned and definitively toppled the Disney Media empire.

In 2004, they did it again, adding in a cute kitty cat with a sword, a mafia run by the fairy godmother and a frog king… It was at least as good as the first.  

And that brings us to 2007, and the third installment of the Shrek series.   We find our big green hero at his in-law’s castle in Far Far Away about to inherit the throne due to the king’s illness.   Shrek (Mike Meyers) ever loving his shack in the swamp whishes to return to the muck.  However, there is a chance that he can return and put a proper heir in the throne.  This solution is in Fiona’s (Cameron Diaz) cousin “Artie” Pendragon (Justin Timberlake).

Now we have a plot, Shrek, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss (Antonio Banderas) set off to a middle-aged high school to find this heir to the throne.

In the mean time it turns out Fiona is pregnant, all the bad guys from all the ferry tales are organizing to overthrow the kingdom and as it turns out Arite is a complete and total outcast.

Plot watered down enough for you yet?  Well it has to be because we’ve only got ninety-two minutes to get all this resolved!

It does get resolved, but much like the later Star Wars movies it is apparent that now digital animation technology is more of a focus than good storytelling.  Many of the characters have been rendered with such incredible detail; even some of the background villains are as close to real-life as has ever been seen in an animated film.  However these details will be lost on everyone but the most critically scrutinizing moviegoer (hence why I brought it up for you).

Reprising their roles are all the principle characters.  Eddy Murphy steals the movie back from Banderas who stole #2.  The writing really moved toward a more mature Shrek, which left Meyers with less room to have as much fun with the role as he did in previous installments.  

The Fiona/Shrek dynamic is also lost as they are separate for most of the film.  Diaz does a passable job but her supporting cast, including Julie Andrews as the queen upstages her.

Unfortunately the latest addition to the cast was the biggest mistake the film made.  Justin Timberlake’s monologues as Artie are rather unemotional and pointless, bringing no real interest into his character except how other characters beat up on him.   By the end of the movie you don’t want him to be king. (By the way if you don’t know who Arthur Pendragon is you deserve that spoiler).

Also gone from this movie is the presence of future rock classics.  The first film gave us Smashmouth singing “I’m a Believer” and the second revived the Counting Crows career with “Accidentally In Love” This time around we’re treated to some great classic rock cuts such as Wings, “Live and Let Die”, Led Zepplin’s “The Immigrant Song” and a remake of Heart’s “Barracuda”. 

Most of the humor is at either end of the movie, but none of it is funny on multiple levels.  The universal appeal of the first Shrek movie was that the kids laughed but the adults actually got the jokes.  “Do you think he’s compensating for something?” was over the kid’s heads but made the adults in the theater almost fall out of their seat.  This time around the humor is much more obvious, thus sending it in the direction of being a purely kids movie.

Shrek is mostly a victim of it’s own success.  Having put together two of the best animated movies in the genre’s digital history (a genre that includes all those wonderful Pixar films too) the bar was just set a bit too high.  It’s still a good movie for the kids in the back seat of the minivan but you may want to save a few bucks and wait for the DVD on this one.

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