The first “Shrek” was a quite a surprising and genuinely funny stab at the fairy-tale genre (and Disney in general). It also made enough money to garner a sequel, titled “Shrek 2” of course, and the result was a damn near waste of celluloid. There was nothing new about that film and the references that made the first one seem so fresh, ended up making this one stale in comparison. But it made money. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we have another sequel wrecking havoc on our lives this summer. “Shrek the Third” is somewhat of an improvement over the last one, though it still never veers off familiar terrain. Essentially, if you’ve only seen one “Shrek” film, you’ve seen them all.
Picking up right where the last one left off, Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are living it up in the Kingdom of Far, Far Away Land, posing as the King and Queen, as the real ones are off somewhere doing something. Before the King finally croaks (the King is a frog, get it?), he appoints his large green son-in-law to take over the throne. Only he doesn’t want the job.
So what does Shrek do? If you’ve seen the other two, you know exactly what happens next. He goes on another journey with his compatriots Donkey (Eddie Murphy, surprisingly not wearing a fat-suit) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas). This time they have to travel to Worcestershire (if only I was making that up) to pick up the other heir to the throne. This land also happens to be a high school and the person they seek happens to be the class dork. Artie (Justin Timberlake) doesn’t fit in with the jocks and the Dungeons and Dragons-playing nerds don’t like him either. Imagine his excitement to learn that he has just been appointed King to a bunch of people he’s never met in a land he’s never been to?
While Shrek and crew are off on their little escapade, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) returns to Kingdom with a vengeance. With the assistance of Captain Hook (Ian McShane), and a whole slew of other proverbial villains, he takes over Far, Far Away and crowns himself King. And you can figure out the rest from here.
The real problem with this film, outside of unoriginality of course, is that the jokes are either too childish for adults or way too adult for kids. There is no doubt in my mind that “Shrek the Third” is supposedly geared for children but are they really going to get a Led Zepplin reference? Are they going to chuckle when they see a gang of teenagers climb out of a carriage with smoke pouring out of it as if they were just pulling a Spicoli?
Princess Fiona is also pregnant and this leaves Shrek with a lot of woes. You can imagine the types of concerns and problems he has to tackle here too. While it may open the door for the inevitable “Shrek 4,” it’ll no doubt fuel the most curious of kid with a couple of questions you may not be ready to answer at this point in their lives.
The soundtrack contains some nice bits, including songs by The Eels, Wolfmother and The Ramones. It also includes an ear-bleeding cover of Heart’s Barracuda by Fergie, which is no good for anybody.
Just like the other two films, “Shrek the Third” was written by an infinite amount of screenwriters, making sure no pop-culture reference was left untouched. Co-directors Chris Miller and Raman Hui do a consistent job of making this film look exactly like the other two. Which is a good thing if you don’t feel like spending a lot of money at the theater this weekend. If you have a large family, and they want you to drag them to see this new movie, just pop in the first or second one in your DVD player and tell them it’s the new one. They’ll never know the difference.