After the original spoof of fairy tales and Disney fare, it’s taken three sequels to finally get one right. Now please stop.
Now with a wife, kids, friends and fame, Shrek (Mike Myers) has it all but has become overwhelmed by it. In a moment of weakness, the local magical deal maker Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) makes Shrek an offer: one whole day when no one knows who he is and he can be the fearful ogre he used to be. Unfortunately, taking the deal also changes the future, one where Donkey (Eddie Murphy) doesn’t know him, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) has become a freedom fighter, and Puss (Antonio Banderas) is having a bit of trouble fitting into his boots. There’s a way to fix everything, of course, but can Shrek make it happen in just one day?
There are a lot of people who didn’t enjoy the original Shrek. As both an anachronistic spoof of Disney princess films and fairy tales in general, Shrek also told its own story. When it came time for the inevitable sequel, the plot was practically abandoned in favor of pop culture references, mostly with hit and miss success. By the third film, the first half showed a glimmer of hope before jumping plots with some “passing of the torch” idea to… Justin Timberlake? Fortunately, Forever After finally ties together the right balance of story, character, and spoof while still building on the established franchise, making it the perfect place to stop.
Truth be told, the best sequel to the original thus far is actually at Universal Studios inside the Shrek 3-D attraction. Not only does it take viewers on an incredible ride, it also revisits a character absent from the all the sequels: Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow). One of the saddest parts of the continuing films has been the lack of a real villain, and Rumpelstiltskin’s brief back story and motivations fill the bill that been long overdue since Farquaad met his end inside a dragon’s gullet. Rumpelstiltskin’s plan isn’t just evil, its diabolical, and there are real consequences involved other than just living your life knowing what could have been or what you gave up.
Also returning are Julie Andrews as the Queen and John Cleese as King Harold (in a bit of a flashback), plus all your favorites are around as well. Of course, no Shrek installment would be complete without randomly placed synchronized group dance choreography, but a surprise henchman working under Rumpelstiltskin takes that particular detail to whole new and hilarious level. While Dreamworks Animation had a heavy hand in revolutionizing the animated film industry with the original Shrek, it’s really feels like it’s time to let the big guy actually retire happily ever after (for a while, anyway) instead of beating him to death with lackluster plots to sell more merch.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)