Shrek The Final Chapter
Directed by Mike Mitchell
Starring Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas
Release date: May 21, 2010
I was watching TV the other night with a friend of mine and a trailer for Shrek The Final Chapter came on. He’s not what you call attentive, so when he looked at me and said, “There’s a new Shrek movie coming out?” I wasn’t surprised. But his response when I confirmed it was oddly insightful — he simply asked, “Why?” It might be a good question since the series was wrapped up nicely with the last three movies, but if you think the answer is anything but money, you’re crazy.
So how do you advance a series that has nowhere else to go because the characters have everything they have wanted for three movies? Why, an alternate universe, of course.
After a quick scene to catch everyone we see Shrek and friends just living life. Everything is going as it should, or at least how they wanted it. Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, and Dragon are tending to their respective clans. Everything is good until Shrek starts feeling like every day is the same and remembers a time when his level of self-worth was much higher. People used to be scared of ogres. His life used to have purpose. Ah, the good old days…
Shrek has everything he ever thought he wanted and has decided he’s bored with all of it. He wants a taste of the way things used to be. After a chance meeting with Rumpelstiltskin, he is offered the chance to have one day to be the Shrek of old, without a care in the world other than scaring people. In exchange, he only has to give up a day from his childhood. Seems fair enough, but due to a sneaky clause in the fine print, everything goes to crap and hilarity (allegedly) ensues. Now he is stuck in a world where none of his friends or his wife even know who he is and he has to find a way to get back before his existence is nullified.
Jesus. Talk about bottom of the barrel. I am no model of civilized parenting, but kids don’t want to hear this. Kids don’t care that “old people” have problems, let alone having them all spelled out for 90 minutes. There is just nothing in the story for kids to gravitate to. The argument can be made that most movies tailored to kids have some kind of message, but you still have to keep them entertained. Kids don’t need much in the way of deep storytelling, but they aren’t stupid either. So prancing around familiar characters to a frumpy old adult story is a little off-putting. And when you put them in an world where everything is different, you lose the soul and the reason the characters were as well liked to begin with. I suppose there is also an argument to be made for these self-referential kids movies that appeal to adults as much as the kids. While that is true, something tells me that the way into a parent’s heart isn’t smearing their face in a story that tells them how much being an adult sucks.
Shrek Forever After comes off the rails early and often because the magic is gone. There is nothing redeeming about retelling old jokes and taking away the likability of the characters in the process. At least the previous sequels tried to advance the plight of Shrek and company. With Shrek The Final Chapter, you get to see what happens after all the fairy tale stuff cools off with a whole story about getting back to where you started. It is the theatrical equivalent of DVD double dipping.
“Wait, it’s not the same, man. It’s like… an alternate universe. People will watch because it’s totally different.” Tell that to The Matrix Revolutions and the sixth season of LOST and let me know how it works out.
The bad news is, when the dust clears from the thud of Shrek the Fourth Forever After: The Final Chapter in 3D (or whatever it’s called) will probably make a ton of money. Not as much as the previous sequels once people see how bad it is, but nobody’s going hungry. That is bad because it incorrectly validates the direction they took. The worse news is that everyone involved with making this one knew that up front and didn’t have to try that hard if they didn’t want to.
Even worse still, they didn’t.