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"Shrek the Third": This Shrek's a Wreck

Shrek the Third is a bit of a mess. The first two films in the series could entertain both children and adults effortlessly, and they had highly original plots. But with Shrek the Third we get what I feared the second film would be: an unoriginal, unentertaining film full of repetitious jokes.

The story has Fiona’s father on his death bed, and Shrek must set out with Donkey and Puss in Boots to locate young Arthur, the next-in-line to the throne. They quickly bring him back, but not before Prince Charming overthrows Far Far Away and becomes King Charming, along with his new wife, Queen Rapunzel.

The film is terribly boring and relies on tired jokes (like Donkey’s “I haven’t had a trip that bad since college!”) that would make an eighties sitcom look fresh. That’s not to say there aren’t a few laughs; most are provided by Pinocchio and Gingerbread Man, but for Shrek and crew’s part, there isn’t a whole lot here to laugh at.

The film’s plot has Shrek initially trying to shirk his duties, which is odd in itself: despite his nature, he always does good in the end. The story about young Arthur also doesn’t make a lot of sense. Despite being of royal descent, he is in some high school where he’s treated like crap, and his parents are never mentioned. It doesn’t help that Arthur’s school is populated by every high school stereotype conceivable.

Having said all of that, I will admit that the animation is wonderful to look at, with a bright color palette and smooth animations throughout. The star-studded voice cast does a fine job, although I must say Eddie Murphy’s lines as Donkey became really grating this time around, perhaps because most of what he said was so unoriginal.

It’s a real shame that the Shrek series should stumble like this. In fact, this film should have been a direct-to-video sequel rather than a theatrical release. I’m sure kids will still love it, but it just doesn’t have the broad-age appeal of the first two films. Rent it.

The DVD comes in a standard amaray case with an embossed cardboard slip cover. The colorful packaging will likely catch the eyes of more than enough shoppers this holiday season. The disc features the usual Paramount art (grey) and easy-to-navigate menus.

It boasts a solid audio/video transfer, which is to be expected from a CGI film. Film transfer is pristine, with sharp colors and no degradation of any kind, from what I could see. Audio also does a fair job in the surround area, throwing back the occasional sound to the rear channels.

Extras include fluff pieces galore, starting with the “Academy Yearbook”, a collection of profiles for characters we saw for about five minutes in the film. Like the entire “high school” sequence of the main feature, the yearbook is unfunny and a chore to click and read your way through.

“Big Green Goofs” are all technical glitches that often involve people going cross eyed or Shrek’s antennae going all goobly gooky. Anyone who finds these entertaining probably hasn’t watched the last two reels of these on the last two Shrek films.

“Lost Scenes” is a series of deleted scenes in storyboard form that are acted out by the writers in a pitch-process, full of people in the room. This is just about the only non-kid extra here, as the remaining extras on this set are either completely kid-based (“Donkey Dance”) or PR leftovers from the promotion of the film. “Lost Scenes” is definitely the most entertaining extra on the disc, as it’s just interesting to see the writers pitch their idea with so much heart and effort.

The aforementioned “Donkey Dance” is just as it sounds—Donkey dancing on a black backdrop with “Donkey” in bulb-lettering. Hilarious? No. I actually found it quite grating. Either I’m beginning to hate Eddie Murphy, or I’m beginning to hate Donkey. I’m not sure which.

“Meet the Cast” and “Tech of Shrek” are the PR leftovers, and I’m pretty sure “Meet the Cast” has at least aired on TV at some point, as the intro to it is almost too TV-special sounding. We get interviews from a lot of the cast and crew and a fair amount of back patting along the way. “Tech of Shrek” is a dull watch as well, what with the repetitive wire frame models that all CGI cartoon making-ofs show off. I know how it’s done already, so stop showing me.

Finally, “Shrek’s Guide to Parenthood” is a mish mash of parenting tips from characters from the film, such as Pinocchio and Gingerbread Man. All of the “tips” are related to the characters giving them, with such hilarious lines as “Teach them to run, run, run, as fast as they can!”

Some trailers are thrown in, but that pretty much wraps up the DVD. Like the film, there isn’t a whole lot to see, and what there is to see, we’ve seen on the previous Shrek DVD releases. Like the film, the DVD deserves a Rental and nothing more.

Bonus Review: Shrek: The Complete Guide

So, there’s this book. It’s big, though really thin. It has really soft covers, really pretty graphics and is all about the world that everyone’s favorite animated ogre lives in. Yes, I mean Shrek, and his ever expanding group of co-stars. The book covers most of the Shrek timeline from movie one through three and includes some bits from the Universal Studios “Shrek’s Honeymoon” simulator ride. It is as comprehensive as a book written for 8-year-olds could probably be about Shrek World. Not that there is much more to Shrek World that what is in the book. There are some jokes here and there that elicit a few chuckles, but nothing that will get you rolling on the floor.

If you have a kid who’s a big fan of Shrek, this is probably a much better purchase than those Shrek Green M&M’s. Otherwise, I can’t imagine a reason to own it unless you’re really a completist about collecting all things Shrek. It’s a quality release, so at least your kids aren’t getting a piece of junk that’s going to fall apart after a few whacks against the bed post or a sibling’s head, but it’s strictly for the wee ones.

—Weatherman

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