Shrek Forever After is a serviceable final chapter and worthy bookend to a fairy tale that needed some finality.
Venturing once again to the land of Far Far Away, we find Shrek (Mike Myers) struggling with the repetition of domesticated family life. As the days in the swamp with his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their three charmingly gassy children pass without the slightest hint of deviation, Shrek begins to lose sight of what he has and yearns for the days when he was a feared and respected ogre.
Enter the smooth-talking Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) who has been known to make a dream or two come true through nefarious and magical means. He presents Shrek with an opportunity to be an “Ogre for a Day” and return to the glory of being chased by pitchforks and torches. There is a catch, as there always is with these type of Faustian agreements: in exchange Shrek must give up one day from his past.
Needless to say, the outcome isn’t good, and Shrek finds himself in an alternate reality where the kingdom is ruled by the shifty Rumpelstiltskin, ogres are hunted by pumpkin bomb-wielding witches, and the Piped Piper can make you shake your groove thing against your will. Shrek has until sunrise to set things straight by stealing a kiss from his one true love, which allows the sequel to rekindle some of the playful romance of the original.
Director Mike Mitchell, who up until now has directed only live-action films such as Sky High and Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo (!), comes close to capturing the humor and tone that was present throughout the first two Shrek stories. Any shortcomings stem from having visited this realm so many times before that it is nearly impossible to not come across as somewhat stale. Eddie Murphy as Donkey and Antonio Banderas as a rotund Puss in Boots are a treat to revisit and nearly every moment they are on screen has a hilarious energy. The new baddie, Rumpelstiltskin, can be annoying and has a tinge of Pee Wee Herman to him that can be distracting, but fills his antagonist role well and has a wonderful recurring bit involving various wigs that coincide with his mood swings.
The sequel contains the series’ signature pop culture references – the Pied Piper plays the Beastie Boys – without overdoing it and uses the 3D technology to its full potential. Dreamworks Animation has been at the forefront of 3D integration with computer animation, and this is no exception. First with Monsters vs. Aliens and, more recently, with How to Train Your Dragon, the studio has figured out how to transport you into the film by utilizing the gimmick better than most. Shrek flies through hallways and crawls through tunnels, showing off the technology without being distracting.
Shrek Forever After is effective family fun that delivers what is promised.