Shrek the Third

“Shrek the Third” is shorter by an hour than “Spider-Man 3,” but is more entertaining and in moment even wittier. New segment is playful, campy and self-reflexive, with more characters than the previous segment.

The Shrek franchise has amassed an impressive $1.4 billion in box-office receipts and has sold over 90 million DVDs to date. The original Shrek tallied $479 million in global box-office and sold over 50 million DVDs. The first film capped off its triumph by winning the first-ever Oscar for Best Animated Feature. When Shrek 2 opened on May 19, 2004, it posted the best 5-day opening ever, and became the third highest-grossing animated film of all time, with a worldwide box office of $920 million. The subsequent Shrek 2 DVD registered record 12.1 million units in the first three days and a total of 40 million copies to date.

The filmmakers, co-directors Chris Miller and Raman Hui and their team of writers, have come up with a story that will appeal to all demos, the very young and very old, males and females, whites and minorities, straight and gay viewers. If you look beneath the surface, there's something for everyone in this picture, but not in the negative sense of the term.

Watching “Shrek 3,” which is dense in texture and rich in references, is like getting a brief lecture about the history of fairytales. There's not a single character name, dialogue line, or visual image that doesn't make allusions to the form's famed fables and best samplers.

(The only qualm I have is to what extent children will understand those references and, more importantly, to what extent their parents will encourage them to go back to the original tales, light and dark, by the Grim brothers Hans Christian Andersen, and company.)

“Shrek 3 brings back the inimitable voices of Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona, Antonio Banderas as Puss In Boots, Julie Andrews and John Cleese as Queen Lillian and King Harold, and Rupert Everett as Prince Charming.

Joining the already-stellar voice cast are Grammy Award-winning singer and actor Justin Timberlake as Artie, the king-in-waiting; Eric Idle of Monty Python as Merlin the magician; the Saturday Night Live trio Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, and alumni Cheri Oteri as Snow White, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty respectively; Amy Sedaris as Cinderella; John Krasinski as Lancelot; Ian McShane as Captain Hook. Did I forget anyone Yea. Talk-show host Larry King is cast as the ugly stepsister Doris, and Regis Philbin as Mabel, the other ugly stepsister.

The plot is based on the notion that being king isnt a position for everyone, especially not for a prickly ogre that loves to roll in the swamps. When Shrek married Fiona, the last thing on his mind was to rule Far Far Away. However, when his frogger-in-law King Harold suddenly croaks (and what a croak it is.), Shrek is quickly fitted for the crown.
What kicks the story into gear is the urgent need to find another heir. Unless and until the reluctant would-be king Shrek finds a suitable replacement, hell be “Royal” for the rest of his days. One shock comes after another, when Fiona has a “little” surprise of her own; she wants to have a family. Is Shrek ready to be a father

With his head spinning and belly in knots, Shrek sets off on a quest to find the only possible heir to the throne, Fionas long-lost cousin Artie, an underachieving medieval high-schooler. The ensuing saga cuts back and forth between these two subplots. While Shrek is away, his old nemesis Prince Charming (Rupert Everett, delicious) rears his head and returns to the kingdom of Far Far Away with redemption on his mind.

Even with the pragmatic Donkey and the suave Puss In Boots by his side, its going to take a huge effort for Shrek and Artie to save the day and find their own Happily Ever After. Shrek and company get much needed help from Fiona and her band of princesses in what is a novel point here–and clearly the most overtly feminist streak in the franchise. Just watch Julie Andrews break a wall with her forehead, when the femmes are put in prison, or how the young women fight ferociously in a kung-fu style that will make Tarantino proud.

The narrative is framed by a stage show, attended by hundreds of viewers, a clear reference to the “Harry Potter” school of magic. This beginning and then end land the computer-animated comedy clear symmetry, sending the audience off with a feel-good denouement.

“Shrek 3” is nicely directed by Chris Miller and Raman Hui, but I think it's the script, credited to Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, Chris Miller, and Aron Warner, based on Andrew Adamson's story, that makes the film a joyous experience.

What began as a short childrens story by William Steig has evolved into one of the most acclaimed and beloved franchises in film history. Due to rapid advancements in technology, the look and feel of the Shrek films has changed dramatically over the years.

The characters continue to evolve, and the writers often incorporate elements from the previous screen roles of the actors themselves into the roles. Take Shrek, who has made new friends and walked into new responsibilities, discovering in the process a different way of looking at life. The green hero has come a long way from his solitary days in the swamp.

The story of Shrek 3 is the natural progression of Shrek's life as an adult. Shrek and Fiona fell in love and got married in the first film, then in the second movie, they met the parents and got to know the in-laws. And now the next step for them is to establish their own clandespite Shrek's protests that he would be a bad papa, that baby ogres eat a lot, cry a lot, stink a lot, puke a lot

It's courtship, marriage, and family. In the first film, Shrek didn't think he was worthy of Fiona's love; in the second, he didnt think he was worthy of being a husband, and now he struggles with worthiness, because he's afraid of being a king–and a father.

In “Shrek 3” there are expected and unexpected identity crises and changes, new figures that are androgynous and transgender, reflexivity about movies and events that have taken place last year. Despite variations and changes, the central, all-American message remains constant: The need to learn to believe in yourself and like yourself, the need to rely on yourself, not listen to what other people think–or say–about you.

As Shreks story grows larger, so too does the family of actors who bring the characters to life. The humor is good, and there are nuanced subtleties in the characters that make it so much fun to watch. As a multi-sensory, multi-media experience, “Shrek 3” benefits immensely from the stellar-cast that reprises their roles while bridging the story line from the first film to Shrek 2 and now “Shrek 3.”

Eddie Murphy is just as loveable and irritating as Donkey as he was in the former segments. Rupert Everett reprises his campy role as the self-absorbed Prince Charming. Antonio Banderas's Puss In Boots continues to be smooth and gallant and sneaky. Julie Andrews is still regal as Queen Lillian, but she's given new facets.

The pool of diva princesses, an aggregate of cool ladies, consists of Saturday Night Live stars Maya Rudolph, Amy Poehler, and Cheri Oteri as Sleeping Beauty, and they are all excellent, often hitting their marks with one line or gesture.

Chris Miller makes a skillful feature directing debut, based on his extensive experience at DreamWorks Animation (since 1998), as a story artist on the studios first animated comedy, Antz, a story artist on Shrek, and head of story on Shrek 2. Co-Director Raman Hui has worked at PDI/DreamWorks for 15 years, guiding the animation team from commercials and shorts to feature films, serving as supervising animator on Shrek, and Shrek 2.

Cast of Voices

Shrek (Mike Myers)
Donkey (Eddie Murphy)
Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz)
Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas)
Queen (Julie Andrews)
King (John Cleese)
Prince Charming (Rupert Everett)
Merlin (Eric Idle)
Artie (Justin Timberlake)

Credits

Running time: 90 minutes

A Paramount release of a DreamWorks Animation SKG presentation of a PDI/DreamWorks production.
Directed by Chris Miller.
Co-directed by Raman Hui.
Produced by Aron Warner.
Exec-producers: Andrew Adamson and John H. Williams.
Co-producer, Denise Nolan Cascino. Directed by Chris Miller.
Screenplay: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, Chris Miller, and Aron Warner, from a story by Andrew Adamson, based on the book by William Steig.