They say the third time’s the charm, but this doesn’t quite hold true in the third installment of DreamWorks’ popular Shrek franchise, Shrek the Third. The film marks DreamWorks Animation Studio’s first venture into “three-quel” territory, a seemingly logical decision after the financial and critical success of the first two Shrek films. However, by the time we meet Shrek and company for the third time, the novelty has worn off, and some of the jokes and plotlines start to feel tired. I wouldn’t call Shrek the Third a bad movie, but it fails to live up to the high expectations set by its predecessors.
At the start of the film, Shrek’s new father-in-law King Harold the frog dies, or “croaks,” to use the filmmakers’ questionable terminology. This leaves our titular ogre as the heir to the throne of Far Far Away, a job he has no desire to fulfill, as he wants to resume his peaceful swamp life with wife Fiona. Luckily for Shrek, there is one other heir: Fiona’s cousin Arthur Pendragon, or Artie for short, voiced by Justin Timberlake. Thus Shrek, along with Donkey and Puss in Boots, sail off to Worcestershire Academy to pick up the awkward teen and inform him of his new ruling status, but not before Fiona drops a major bombshell by informing her husband that she’s pregnant, and he’s going to be a father.
While Shrek and the guys are off recruiting Artie, Fiona, her mother Queen Lillian, and an assortment of princesses and Shrek’s fairy tale friends celebrate Fiona’s mother-to-be status at the castle. However, their festivities are cut short when Prince Charming (introduced in Shrek 2) and a horde of fairy tale villains storm the castle, and Charming attempts to claim the throne for himself, thereby obtaining the “happily ever after” he insists he rightfully deserves.
What follows is a lot of the same banter and slapstick antics that populated the first two Shrek movies, although here it feels a lot less inspired. Wrestling with the responsibilities of becoming a king or impending fatherhood just doesn’t have the same entertainment factor or emotional hook as the fairy tale action and themes of acceptance that permeated the previous films. There are still laughs and enjoyable moments, but they never quite reach the high points that we’ve come to expect from Shrek and company. Watching the film, I couldn’t shake the feeling of waiting for there to be something more, and by the time the credits rolled, I felt I had been somewhat entertained but far from emotionally satisfied.
Fans simply wanting to see their favorite characters in action again won’t be disappointed, as Shrek the Third has the largest roster of characters yet: our main heroes Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, and Puss in Boots are joined by Gingy the gingerbread man, Pinocchio, The Big Bad Wolf, The Three Little Pigs, Dragon, and the baby Dronkeys. We also have Queen Lillian, the Ugly Stepsister, and a posse of princesses including Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel. When Prince Charming storms into the castle, he brings a crew of villains including Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, Rumpelstiltskin, the Headless Horseman, and more. Then we have brand-new characters Artie and his retired wizard teacher, Mr. Merlin. Unfortunately, while Shrek 2 managed to include a large cast of characters without any of them feeling superfluous, the same thing is not achieved here.
The graphics and animation in Shrek the Third are naturally the series’ best yet, but that can’t save the plot of the film from hanging around in ho-hum territory when it could have been so much more. Regardless, the film brought in a domestic total gross of $322.7 million, below Shrek 2’s $441.2 million but above the original Shrek’s $267.7 million (Box Office Mojo).
As a standalone movie, Shrek the Third works just fine as a mildly enjoyable fairy tale romp, but when comparing it to what came before, I couldn’t help but feel a little cheated.
What did you think of Shrek the Third, and how do you feel it stacks up against the other movies in the Shrek franchise?
Edited by: Kelly Conley