Thursday, 24 May 2007

Shrek The Third (2007)

No more role reversals in the Shrek franchise, but prepare for more pop culture references!

"And they lived happily ever after..." is a phrase that the denizens in the world of Far Far Away have heard of, but never really get to experience. Lest you feel sorry for them, bear in mind that this is the only reason why Shrek is a franchise - we only get to watch more installments of our loveable green ogre and his green princess because they never get to live happily ever after. Alas, Prince Charming, the villain from Shrek 2, doesn't realise this simple fact of life, and upon the death of the King, rallies the ultimate collection of fairy tale villains to take over the kingdom of Far Far Away in order to fulfill his very own "happily ever after". It should be Shrek to the rescue, but for the fact that our loveable Scottish ogre is next in line for the throne - a career development that he relishes far less than being a new father - and is off in the country to retrieve the other candidate for King of Far Far Away, a wimpy bullied loser called Arthur Pendragon (Justin Timberlake). Will Shrek, Donkey, Puss-in-Boots and Arthur save the day? Or perhaps, will Princess Fionna and her assorted friends from Shrek2 save it instead?

Shrek The Third is part of the original Shrek franchise, and there are basically so few changes to the formula and setup that if you loved Shrek 1 and 2, this movie will be just as appealing to you. For strangers to the Shrek movies (seriously, where have you been?), the template for the cartoon consists of melding adult-oriented comedy with a dash of kiddie appeal. The pop culture in-jokes, the general satire of fairy tale conventions and characters, as well as the wordplay is unmistakably adult, while the comic action sequences and the generous serving of bodily humour jokes are meant for the kiddies. Even so, Shrek The Third has a few noticeable changes from the formula that marks it sufficiently different from its predecessors. I thought the jokes in this movie were less densely packed than the previous entries in the franchise. The adult comedy element with its verbal jokes are still here, but these often take centrestage to the soundtrack, where songs play at the most hilariously wrong times - do look out for Live and Let Die, the Sound of Music theme, That's What Friends are for, and the Monty Python coconut shell sound effect, for starters...

While its predecessors can be seen as satires of fairy tales, with pop culture references thrown in for the wallop, Shrek The Third feels more like a satire of pop culture with even more pop cultural references thrown in for the wallop. As a result, one does not get the situational sketch comedy feel ("What if everything we knew about fairy tales were the opposite of what they really are?") of previous Shrek movies here. In Shrek The Third, villains stay villainous and the good guys are the good guys - which might be the most radical thing to ever happen in the Shrek series, if not for the fact that this just means this movie is basically a very straightforward fairy tale adventure that seems the most removed from the original Shrek.

Perhaps the visual elements in the action scenes may be the universally funny enough to bring down the house without fail, but I do hope that the next Shrek sequel will hew closer to the franchise tradition of skewering conventional fairy tales instead.

First published at incinemas on 31 May 2007

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