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May 21 2010
Review - " Shrek Forever After "  -  (in theaters) By Roland Hansen
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Shrek Forever After
Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio
Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Walt Dohrn, Jon Hamm, Jane
Lynch, Craig Robinson, Lake Bell, Kathy Griffin, Mary Kay Place,
Kristen Schall

You know that a film franchise is beginning to tire when its central
character is in the throes of a midlife crisis. Such is the case with the
lovable ogre in "Shrek Forever After," the fourth and promised final
film in the animated series that has proven a moneymaking machine
in its last three incarnations. This installment should prove equally
lucrative - especially considering the extra coin that 3D and IMAX
bring to the table - but it also reveals a definite been-there, done-that

The film wastes no time in reintroducing its beloved characters,
including the sassy Donkey (Eddie Murphy), the adorable Princess
Fiona (Cameron Diaz), the suave Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas)
and, ever so briefly, Fiona's royal parents (John Cleese, Julie
Andrews). Shrek (Mike Myers) is now a staid married ogre with three
adorable ogre offspring who finds himself chafing at his rigid
domesticity and his being embraced by the very villagers who once
feared him.

In an effort to shake things up, he enters into an unfortunate pact
with the devil or, more precisely, new villain Rumpelstiltskin (borrowed
for the occasion from the Brothers Grimm and voiced by story editor
Walt Dohrn). Suddenly, he finds himself in an alternate Far Far Away
in which he was never born: Rumpel is king, Fiona is the fierce
warrior leader of a band of rebel ogres, Donkey is in the employ of a band of cackling witches, and Puss, well, Puss has
really let himself go - he's now a pampered housecat with a serious eating disorder.

Desperate to reclaim his former life, Shrek attempts to woo back Fiona and extract a kiss from his "one true love" that will
undo the effects of the spell.

Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke's screenplay creates some fun with the personality and visual changes the familiar
characters have undergone, but as with so many sequels to sequels, "Shrek Forever After" has lost much of the simple
charm, humor and heart that marked its predecessors. No doubt looking to exploit the sensory stimulation offered by 3D, the
filmmakers have ramped up the action, most notably in a high-flying broom chase featuring Shrek and Donkey and the
witches and an elaborate climactic battle sequence.

The 3D effects are undeniably impressive, but like many other examples of this increasingly popular form, some of the visual
quality is sacrificed with the inevitable image darkening. The fact that much of the story is set in a literally bleaker landscape
doesn't help matters.

As per usual with the series, this edition includes numerous pop cultures references - a nod to "The Wizard of Oz" got a big
laugh - and several musical montages set to classic pop songs, including the Carpenters' "Top of the World."

By this point, the estimable voice talents have their acts down cold, with each once again providing invaluable contributions
(especially Banderas, whose hilarious Puss steals scenes with abandon). Newcomers include Dohrn, whose Rumpelstiltskin
displays an amusingly hysterical edge; Jon Hamm, lending his stern baritone to his role as an ogre who makes Shrek look
wimpy; and Jane Lynch and Craig Robinson as ogre rebels (the latter particularly funny as a chef whose specialty is

DreamWorks Animation claims Shrek Forever After is the final chapter in their highly successful franchise. Whether this is a
true statement or not remains to be seen, however, as it stands now (i.e., this being the last film), it is good the lovable ogre
went out on a relatively high note - too many times we've seen a studio run a well received character into the ground just to
squeeze out a few dollars extra.

That last part about ceasing to exist aside, Shrek Forever After is a fun riff on It's a Wonderful Life. The film moves along at
a nice clip. Shrek Forever After doles out such quips at a measured rate, sticking mainly to the basics of toying with fairy-tale
culture in ways that are generally
amusing. It also takes time to
develop the central elationship
between Shrek and Fiona, as well
as between Shrek and his sidekicks,
without the film feeling
overextended or rushed.

Remarkably for a fourth film in a
series, Shrek Forever After doesn't
feel flaccid but fresh. For once, we
have a summer movie that's just
what a summer movie should be,
a lot of fun.