I enjoyed the original “Shrek” well enough. I even enjoyed “Shrek II” almost as much. “Shrek the Third”, regrettably, is far from measuring up to the standards set by its predecessors. The humor comes across as stale and forced and otherwise predictable, which does little to honor the clever and innovative comedy of its older siblings. “Shrek the Third” isn’t up to the standard of its name and instead feels like one of the many Shrek “knock-offs” that began polluting theaters shortly after the original proved to be a hit, such as “Doogle” and “Happily N’Ever After”.
With the King of Far Far Away (John Cleese) about to croak, the reluctant Shrek (Mike Myers) is next in line to assume command. A simple ogre, all Shrek wants is to settle down back in his swamp with his lovely wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz). To escape such dreaded responsibility, Shrek sets out to collect the only other heir to the throne, Arthur Pendragon (Justin Timberlake). Shortly before setting out, Fiona drops a bombshell on her poor husband: she’s expecting. As if Shrek’s problems weren’t bad enough, it would seem that young Arthur has no intentions of coming along willingly. And yet all this is only a slight nuisance when compared to the real threat, the villainous Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) and his legion of fairy tale villains who lay siege to the kingdom of Far Far Away in Shrek’s absence.
While my opening paragraph may paint “Shrek the Third” as the anti-Christ of animated film’s, it really isn’t all bad. While the humor is dreadfully subpar when compared to the standard the franchise set, the story and animation are actually quite good. The talented folks at Dreamworks outdo themselves this time around, presenting a very visually gorgeous film. The plot of Prince Charming and his hordes of fairy tale villains overthrowing the kingdom is also pretty fun. I actually found the scenes featuring the villains to be the most entertaining (especially Captain Hook). Merlin (played by Eric Idle) also got a few chuckles out of me.
The downside of the film is that aside from a few moments of inspired comedy, “Shrek the Third” just isn’t all that funny. I know humor is subjective and all that, but the movie relies on far too many hackneyed and predictable gags while riding on several call-backs and nostalgic bits from the previous films. These jokes are fine when used sparingly, but they unfortunately encompass most of the film’s comedy. You’ll find yourself more interested in watching the characters run around doing their thing rather than laughing yourself silly.
As far as the voice performances go, there isn’t a whole lot of new blood to speak of. The returning cast members deliver as well as they have in previous installments. Eric Idle portrays a humorous “New Age” Merlin and does it quite well, as he’s no new-comer to the world of voice acting. Justin Timberlake, on the other hand, does a rather poor job as the bratty Arthur. Not exactly being a follower of Timberlake’s, I don’t know how much experience he has in the field of voice acting, but he comes off rather forced and awkward. While I’m not the dude’s biggest fan, I don’t think he’s a terrible actor, he’s just not very good at doing voice overs.
“Shrek the Third” epitomizes the term “losing steam”, as you can really tell the franchise is about done. Not a very strong note to go out on, I must confess, but I’m sure it’ll clean-up at the box office anyway thanks to the inescapable marketing blitz and the overall power of the brand name.