Shrek the Third (2007) — It’s not easy being green

“The cat turned into a little horse that smells like feet. What’s to get?”

Lissa’s rating: Actually, that Summary Capsule summed it up quite well.

Lissa’s review: There are two kinds of sequels in this movies. One is the continuation of the planned story — something like Return of the Jedi or Return of the King. (I’m seeing a lot of “return” here.) The other is the movie set in the same series, made because the franchise is still profitable popular. The first is often… well, I wouldn’t say guaranteed to be good, but I would say that the quality is likely to be consistent with that of the first movie(s). This is because there’s a story to be continued, not because those involved came up with a new money making idea. The second category, however, well. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s not.

Shrek was a bundle of laughs the first time out. Edgy (as far as kids’ movies go), creative, and a great twist-slash-spoof on fairy tales, it was well worth buying the DVD. Shrek 2 had the fairly rare distinctions of being a sequel that many people consider even better than the original. So, I can understand why they made Shrek the Third, and I’m not even saying that they shouldn’t. But the “better than the original” label stays firmly on movie number 2.

So, Shrek and Fiona have had two happily-ever-afters: One where they got married, and one where her parents accepted him as a son-in-law. Now, the obvious next step is babies. Well, I suppose it’s one of the obvious next steps. The other obvious next step is to kill off the king and put someone in his place (because apparently the queen ruling isn’t an option?). And since the only daughter is the staple of fantasy, Fiona (and therefore Shrek) is next in line. And both thoughts — being a father and being king — scare Shrek to the very core of his being.

Let’s face it, both are very reasonable things to be afraid of. Shrek has lived alone most of his life, and when he did marry, he picked a woman who took out Robin Hood and his Merry Men without breaking a sweat. Fiona isn’t exactly the wilting flower dependent type of princess, here. So suddenly having people dependent on him, and having his decisions affect lives… yeah. Very, very scary.

But the two plotlines were almost like separate stories that didn’t seem to intersect much. Of course, Shrek dealing with not wanting to be king is very easy to work with, especially when he decides to go out and find Arthur, the only other heir. Shrek dealing with being a father, though, is a much more introspective journey, most of which happens in Shrek’s mind. Needless to say, I think that the “get a new king” plotline fares better than the “get kids” one, at least from Shrek’s perspective.

The quest for a king yields two new characters: Artie, the twerpy little upstart who becomes king, and Merlin, a retired schoolteacher with a hippy outlook and approach to life. Merlin is a lot of fun, which isn’t a huge surprise given that he’s voiced by Eric Idle. Artie is a bit of a geek, which can be alternately annoying and funny, depending on the moment.

However, I do have to admit that he was a little too cute to be a believable complete outcast, to the extent where the D&D nerds would pick on him. But he’s voiced by Justin Timberlake, and although it galls me to say it, I’ve got to give the guy props at the continued evidence he doesn’t always take himself too seriously. Anyway, the quest plotline has its high points, and then it has its preachy moral section, which is really kind of lame.

The babies plotline… well, Shrek doesn’t much figure into it, even though he’s the titular character and the father. I mean, most of his acceptance sort of goes on in his head. Which makes sense, because how else would it happen, but also makes for kind of dull watching. Fortunately, we have Fiona. Skipping over too many gags about belly size, morning sickness, and deliveries, the writers went straight to the Baby Shower. This was most definitely a good choice, because the baby shower was easily one of the funniest parts of the movie. Baby showers are fraught with their own sort of peril anyway, and it’s scarier than braving the quest for a king.

Tying these two plotlines together is Charming, who definitely runs off with the show. Charming has decided that villains deserve happily ever after endings too, and invades the kingdom. Yay! But really, you know what this all reminds me of? Sometimes, when I’m writing a story, I’ll write the scenes as they occur to me instead of writing in a linear fashion. This has its advantages, but sometimes when I put them together they don’t fit quite right. Not in terms of plot, but in terms of feel or style or pacing or repeating something I’ve already said or leaving something out. It makes the story feel very patchwork, and that’s the same feeling I got from Shrek the Third. Very patchwork.

Shrek the Third was one of the Big Three Threequels (ew — I hate that word) of Summer 2007 that was supposed to make its makers filthy rich. I suppose it did that, although it disappointed at the same time. Sadly, I can see why. It’s still good, but the overaching theme isn’t the quest for a king or the quest for daddy-dom, but the quest for more money. And it shows.

Didja notice?

  • Little Red Riding Hood was in the Poison Apple? (I guess because The Big Bad Wolf is a good guy?)
  • The Ugly Stepsister is now on the good guys’ side? Why?
  • Donkey and Dragon named their kids Coco, Debbie, Peanut, Parfait and Bananas. I like Parfait!
  • The Ents do A Chorus Line! (I’m sorry – they still look like Ents to me.)
  • I’ve been told there’s a very adult item on Charming’s dressing table. I’ll have to look better when I watch it again.
  • Snow White’s Dopey tattoo comes and goes.
  • Coconut hoof bats!
  • Triplets? Why is it always multiple births?

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