The Shrek franchise: back from its sophomore slump. 

This summer, put on your track shoes. Shrek the Third, released last weekend, is the third of about 13 sequels out or coming out over the next few months. By the time it's all over, everybody might be feeling some serious sequel exhaustion. In that light, Shrek the Third is perfectly positioned: a family film which mixes fun with forgettable in a way that's charming today but might be less enticing by August's end.

The first Shrek (which won the first Animated Feature Oscar) was best at its cheekiest, tackling Disney characters and conventions, seeming at times like a kind of Behind the Music for the Mouse Factory, revealing the exploitation of beloved characters. At the base of the conceit was the idea that modern-day fairy-tale consumers don't identify with the works of Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Joseph Jacobs, et al., so much as they do the stories as filtered through the Disney brand.

Shrek 2 was a big letdown from there: It focused its satire on Hollywood, celebrity culture, and the movie-business la-la land, but the broadsides were rarely sophisticated and often were cheap film spoofs on par with Loaded Weapon 1 and The Silence of the Hams.

Shrek the Third, thankfully, is a return to the original model. The whole gang is back, as you might imagine for a billion-dollar franchise. Shrek (Mike Myers) is acting monarch after his father-in-law, the frog King Harold (John Cleese), croaks. Not keen on remaining in charge, Shrek and his pals Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) head off to recruit the only other heir to the throne, Artie (Justin Timberlake). Meanwhile, ever-jilted Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) mounts a coup against the pregnant Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews).

Despite the franchise's box-office records and mainstream status, Shrek the Third manages to retain something of the original's outsider image. The comedic foundation is again taking the piss out of Disney, as are the best parts: Prince Charming recruits his putsch army from Disney-character castoffs — Geppetto, Hook, the Evil Witch from Snow White — arguing that the successes of the headliners of the stories they co-starred in were built on their backs; Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty prove they don't need saving.

Shrek the Third looks gorgeous. Directors Chris Miller and Raman Hui and their teams of computer nerds render a world that is dazzling to look at: wind ruffles hair realistically, medieval streets look perfectly grungy, bars look lived in. This may be the DLP digital projection talking, but Shrek the Third is the best-looking in the series.

Of the new-character performances, most noteworthy are Eric Idle, who is great as a New Age Merlin, and Timberlake, who gets to play off his boyish tenor as the teenage King Arthur reference (apparently a Timbaland-free vocal production). Interestingly, the script keeps famous exes Timberlake and Diaz apart, without any swapped dialogue, as skillfully as seasoned celebrity publicists on the red carpet.


Speaking of...


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

    • Wonder Wheel

      Wondering about Woody Allen
    • The Disaster Artist

      James Franco’s hilarious love letter to the worst film ever.
    • Lady Bird

      Greta Gerwig directs Saoirse Ronan in the dazzling coming of age comedy


Tiger Blue

Louisville 81, Tigers 72

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Beyond the Arc


News Blog

Public Picks Zoo Parking Lot Plan

Politics Beat Blog

Left Activists Intrude on Meeting of Shelby County Democrats

Politics Beat Blog

GOP Figure Bill Giannini Killed in Car Crash

Politics Beat Blog

Mackler Out of Senate Race, Yields to Bredesen

Beyond the Arc

The Hustle Dispatch: Week 6

News Blog

Cooper-Young Nears Historical Landmark Status

Intermission Impossible

Bad Santa: Tennessee Shakespeare turns Godot into a Holiday Hellscape


More by Greg Akers

Readers also liked…

  • A Bigger Splash

    Tilda Swinton and Ray Finnes deal with First World Problems
    • Jun 1, 2016
  • Logan Lucky

    Steven Soderbergh Roars Out Of Retirement With A Star Studded Heist Film
    • Aug 24, 2017
  • Maggie’s Plan

    Comedy perfection from director Rebecca Miller
    • Jun 17, 2016
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation