Animated Movies, DreamWorks, Opinions, Reviews, Studios

DreamWorks Countdown 20: ‘Shrek Forever After’

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After the debacle that was Shrek The Third, fans were understandably skeptical when DreamWorks Animation announced their plans to make two more Shrek films. Fortunately, the upcoming installments had the full support of Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was more excited for the coming films than any moviegoer was. Explaining that the whole Shrek story had been mapped out since the first film’s pre-production process, Katzenberg went on to make these promises:

Shrek 3 and 4 are going to reveal other unanswered questions and, finally, in the last chapter, we will understand how Shrek came to be in that swamp, when we meet him in the first movie. There is a reason he came to be there, but there is another chapter to the story before that.

Six years after these statements, Shrek 4 – re-titled Shrek Forever After – arrived on multiplex screens. The film yielded healthy box office returns, but a boatload of mediocre to bad reviews.

With that, we come to the thousand-dollar question: were those bad reviews justified? The general consensus says yes. As for me… well, not to spoil my review, but I don’t think so! After seeing the film for the first time for this review, I have to say that I think it’s a perfectly solid sequel. It’s fine, especially when compared to Shrek The Third.

So, what did I like about this much-maligned film? Well, sit down, friend, and I’ll tell you.

Shrek Forever After starts – as does every other Shrek film – with a storybook opening. This time, the book is being read by Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohrn), a con artist who specializes in making crooked deals. Rumplestiltskin recalls the night that Fiona (Cameron Diaz)’s father and mother approached him, trying to make a deal that would benefit their cursed daughter. Just as the King and Queen are about to sign the contract, however, a servant bursts in with the good news that Fiona has been saved. The King and Queen tell Rumplestiltskin that there will be no deal, which leads the con artist down a road of destitution.

We flash forward several years. By now, Shrek (Mike Myers) has ensconced himself into family life: taking care of his children, nurturing his relationship with Fiona, and hanging out with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas). However, domestic bliss comes with a price: Shrek can no longer be the carefree ogre bachelor he once was.

After things come to a head at a birthday party, Shrek runs into Rumplestiltskin, who hears opportunity knocking. Rumple gets Shrek liquored up and gets Shrek to sign an “Ogre For A Day” contract, which gives Shrek one day of commitment-free ogre behavior in exchange for another day from his childhood. In the middle of enjoying his day, however, Shrek realizes that the day Rumplestiltskin has taken is the day Shrek was born. Now, the only way Shrek can survive past sunrise is to take the contract’s escape clause and get Fiona – now a warrior princess – to share true love’s kiss with him.

The story is fairly predictable to anyone who’s seen It’s A Wonderful Life, a Disney fairy tale, or any of the vast array of deal-with-the-devil stories out there. However, even though each plot point can be seen from miles away, the tale unfolds in an agreeable way, getting from point A to point Z with a few laughs along the way. The legendary director Howard Hawks once said that a good film was one with “three good scenes and no bad ones,” and Shrek Forever After is a textbook example of that formula!

Most of the voice acting is fine, with the actors having comfortably settled into their roles. That being said, none of the leads are phoning it in; it’s just that we’ve seen Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Antonio Banderas in these roles so often that the novelty is gone. The only real exception to the “good voice acting” trend is Walt Dohrn as Rumplestiltskin, who is annoying from beginning to end.

The animation also feels like the same old stuff we got in the prior three films. Apparently deciding that there was no need to tinker with a formula that was working, the animators do nothing exciting with the characters. Unfortunately, this also extends to most of the alternate-universe versions of our leads, sticking merely with cosmetic changes (Puss being fat, for instance) and having their personalities and movement remain the same. The sole exception to this rule is Fiona, who looks and feels TOTALLY different in her warrior-princess persona.

Overall, if I had been given only one word with which to review Shrek Forever After, I would have chosen ‘average.’ There’s nothing about the fourth Shrek movie that makes it stand out among its siblings, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Shrek The Third stands out for being horrible. I found it to be a perfectly fine way to while away an hour and a half, and, ultimately, that’s all a movie needs to be!

 

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About AJ Howell

AJ's love of movies began when his mom took him to see The Lion King on a warm California day in 1994. He left the theater with his mind blown and with a strong desire to become a filmmaker. AJ's fascinated with films of all kinds, but animated films have always held a special place in his heart, particularly Disney animation, the work of Chuck Jones, and Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson's Peanuts specials. His favorite animated films include (but aren't limited to) Frozen, Beauty And The Beast, Surf's Up, The Bugs Bunny/RoadRunner Movie, and Toy Story 3. Along with films, AJ also loves pop and rock music, hiking, the beach, comic books, traveling, writing, acting, and baseball.
  • Sebastian

    I have a soft spot for this but I agree that it’s nothing special but I think they animation is actually really impressive in the climax. What I like as I re-watch is that the characters actually present real human expressions. Taking after HTTYD. That’s what I especially want to praise this movie for. Can’t believe though that another Shrek film is on the way.

    • What would even be the story for a Shrek 5? The
      kids would probably be grown up, but otherwise I
      don’t know what story they would go with. I’m with
      you, also can’t believe there’s gonna be a Shrek 5.

      • Sebastian

        Yeah it feels very bizarre to continue from Forever After. I kind of get the feeling that they will introduce a new witch, sorcerer as the antagonist for some reason. Or else they might go more into the troll or ogre lore of Shrek.

  • HiccStridForever92

    I just want to point out that you skipped over HTTYD in the DreamWorks countdown. The article for it should have come out this past Monday and it did not.

  • Alex Beezley

    Watching this film again several months ago, it was amazing how much better the animation looks in this one compared to the original Shrek. Unfortunately, that is the only clear improvement over the first two films. The story is fairly predictable and uninspired, and the voice acting is hit-and-miss. It’s not a bad movie and does have a leg up over Shrek the Third, but it’s just not as enjoyable or rewatchable as the first two.

  • Yeah this one isn’t as bad as the third, but still I wouldn’t watch it again anytime soon after that Shrek and Fiona fight they had before he met Rumple, it just rubbed me the wrong way…..

  • Ernesto Chacon

    What happend to HTTYD didn’t that film came out before Shrek Forever After?

    • You are right. Shrek 4 came out May 2010, while
      How to Train Your Dragon came out March 2010.

      • Sebastian

        Yep that’s right.

  • Yellow

    The movie is fairly good, but while watching it last time, I started feeling kind of depressed. Something about it just feels sad.

  • I liked Shrek 4. Sure, it’s plot is predictable, but at
    least it’s a huge improvement from the 2nd movie
    and it drops most of the annoying pop culture gags
    from Shrek 2.

  • Manuel Orozco

    Shrek Forever After was nothing of a “final” chapter in 2010 compared to Toy Story 3. But like I said twice it’s on par with 1 and 3. What was missing was the original’s satiric magic. And changing Rumpelstilskin was an unnecessary villain move. However, the surprising amount of heart and bittersweet feeling of one last adventure with Shrek was forgiving. If Shrek 5 does happen after all, the story must be 100% worthy of an encore for Shrek and friends. PS where’s our HTTYD review?

  • Jonah Caryln Rentar

    Hello

  • Amber Dvorak

    After the bad taste in my mouth from Shrek the Third, I’d decided to pass on this one entirely. However, after reading your review, I feel it’s worth a go, as long as I don’t expect the storytelling quality of the first two.
    Also, didn’t DreamWorks scrap the 5-movie idea, and decide to make Shrek Forever After the final chapter instead? I thought I recalled reading that…