I’m a bit late to the party reviewing Shrek Forever After, as I’ve never had less desire to see a sequel to a movie I once liked, but when my little cousins came to town, they wanted to see a fat ogre and a talking donkey instead of Jackie Chan in a mustache teaching a little girl karate. Yes, they legitimately thought Jaden Smith was a girl.
And so I suited up for another installment in this franchise that really should have never been a franchise. The first film was fun and fresh, and turned the Disney fairytale genre effectively on its head. But the movies since then? They’ been watchable, but hardly brought anything new to the table, and after Shrek defeated all evil and popped out a bunch of little ogre babies, we imagined his tale had finally drawn to a close.
But alas, as Shrek continues to be massively profitable, his story suspiciously gets a little longer, and in Shrek Forever After, the writers know they’ve backed themselves into a corner with the third film, so they decided to throw in the towel and wipe the slate clean with a “Universe X” plotline, something that’s been tried and true for decades since It’s a Wonderful Life made everyone break down in tears.
There’s a surprising amount of ogre sexual harassment in this movie.
Shrek gets tired of having family and friends who love him and are sometimes slightly annoying, and he wants to go back to being the vicious ogre villagers once feared. In order to snag a vacation, he signs a magical contract with the unscrupulous Rumplestiltskin (we’re really scraping the bottom of the fairy tale bin now), where he’ll get to be a mean ogre for a day once again, so long as Shrek gives him a day in return.
Well, Rumplestiltskin (if I’m spelling this wrong, I honestly don’t care) takes the day Shrek was born, and the green giant spawns into a universe where he never existed. As it turns out, the fairy tale equivalent of Hitler being president is Rumplestiltskin being king, and ogres are now hunted down for trying to form a resistance against him and his army of witches.
With Shrek never existing, Fiona was forced to bust herself out of her tower prison and is now leading the resistance as a green female ogre version of William Wallace, complete with kilt and booming rhetoric. Shrek reads the fine print on his contract, and discovers he can undo all this if he finds “true love’s kiss” which apparently solves everything in fairy tales (and even parodies of fairy tales). He has 24 hours to get it done, but since he’s spent all day scaring random villagers before he knew anything was amiss, he really only has about eight, a tough prospect considering Fiona has literally no idea who he is.
I actually would see a Puss in Boots spinoff movie (which is coming).
It’s a fun gag to see what all the fairy tale creatures are up to in this fairy tale version of the apocalypse. The Gingerbread Man is in gladiator fights against animal crackers in the town square, Pinnocchio is signing away his soul to become a real boy and Puss in Boots has become morbidly obese, and has given up his sword and cap in favor of unlimited amounts of cream and chimichangas.
There are a few good chuckles in the film, but nothing really more than a chuckle. Shrek movies are never offensively bad, but the style doesn’t lend itself for prolonged exposure and by the fourth movie, most of the jokes have worn thin. My cousins liked it, naturally, and I suppose that’s why these movies keep getting made. But something that entertains a four year old isn’t necessarily a good film. They were also going nuts over the preview for Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore.
Kids’ movies don’t have to be just for kids, but with Shrek all it seems that’s left are a few fart jokes and some heavy handed moral messages that keep getting simpler and less profound over time (appreciate what you have, being the latest). Yes, it’s a satisfying arc throughout the film I suppose, but instantly forgettable when it’s over, much like how I can’t recall any plot details of the last two sequels in the series. Hopefully now Shrek has some assurance he made the correct life choices, and will now actually rest in peace, but with Forever After at $300M worldwide already, I have a hard time believing that will be the case. Don’t people know by now ogres just want to be left alone?
2.5 out of 5 stars
I will applaud this film for not trying to overdose on celebrity voice cameos (Rumplestiltskin is someone you’ve never heard of), but that is Jon Hamm and Craig Robinson on the left and middle there.