"Shrek Forever After" Brings a Decent End to the Franchise
Shrek came on the scene in 2001 and felt like a cinematic breath of fresh air. The movie was the first animated feature awarded the Best Animated Feature Academy Award in 2002, and screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were even nominated for an Academy Award for their writing efforts. Shrek was a little on the bubblegum side, but possessed a great sense of fun and cleverness in the way the film played with typical fairy-tale conventions, characters, and Disney animation. Shrek also stretched the boundaries of the PG rating as a movie kids could enjoy, but which also contained some risqué and adult jokes (you know what Lord Farquaad is overcompensating for). However, over the course of three movies, the Shrek franchise seemed to descend into the very thing the first movie seemed to parody – generic, cliché, pop-culture trash. Unfortunately, Shrek Forever After (also sometimes called Shrek the Final Chapter) does not quite wash away the stink of Shrek the Third, but the movie does manage to turn out a surprisingly decent and enjoyable affair. In no way does Shrek Forever After exemplify revolutionary or fine cinema such as Pixar’s WALL-E or Up. However, the movie still possesses a good sense of humor, provides a few good chuckles, and is even touching at times.
The plot, quite derivative of the classic It’s A Wonderful Life, reflects a world in which Shrek was never born. In viewing the trailers, this comes off as a rather underwhelming and lazy plot. However, writers Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke manage to do enough with the material and place Shrek (voiced once again by Mike Myers) in quite an entertaining setting where his friends and family do not know him. The true show-stealer and crown jewel of the movie is DreamWorks animator Walt Dohrn, stepping up to voice the lead villain of the story Rumpelstiltskin. Dohrn plays Rumpel like a conniving, snake-like Southern Californian swindler with a Napoleon complex. All the best scenes and material come from Rumpelstiltskin and Dohrn’s portrayal of the character.
Still frustrating is DreamWorks Animation’s penchant for casting big names in very minor and borderline bit roles, such as Jane Lynch as a random ogre by the name of Gretched. Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm makes his voice acting debut as an ogre named Brogan in Fiona’s resistance movement. At first, the Brogan character was meant to be a romantic rival for Shrek, but the character was scaled back and Hamm is left with little to do, making his casting rather pointless. DreamWorks Animation features tend to rely on celebrity stunt casting more than any other studio in recent memory. If Shrek Forever After is to be the final chapter of Shrek’s story, at least the franchise ends on a positive note, rather than an ugly whimper like the third movie.