The Review: So many times over the years, we’ve gotten not one but two similar movies within a short space of time. And for every Deep Impact and Armageddon, or Dante’s Peak and Volcano, there generally has to be a winner (although with Dante’s Peak and Volcano, that certainly wasn’t the audience). So this summer we have the pitch battle between the “final” films in two once loved computer animated movies, and this is the one that isn’t Toy Story. Shrek got a whole lotta love for his first two appearances, but then something went fairly horribly wrong for the third movie, which seemed to simply regurgitate everything good from the first two that it didn’t simply dispense with altogether.
So, is fourth time the charm? This is a Shrek movie that’s at least trying to get back to its roots, both figuratively and literally. The first movie was built on a simple story with a single villain, while Shrek moved through it learning some of Dreamworks’ trademarked life lessons on the way. (Annoyingly, almost every Dreamworks movie except one has had pretty much the same moral, when you stop to think about it.) The fourth movie manages to repeat this feet by helping every one of the other characters to forget who Shrek is, so he can take that journey over again, except this time knowing where he wants it to end.
Thankfully, I’d forgotten most of the third movie, it was so unmemorable – I think Dreamworks are making the same bet, as we have a completely different Rumpelstiltskin from the last movie as the main villain this time around, and while he’s no Fairy Godmother or Lord Farquad, he’s not bad. The decision to bring back some of the more successful recurring characters, such as the King and Queen, but thankfully to leave some of the lesser ones such as Artie behind, gives a slightly leaner feel. Everyone of the four main leads does what they’ve been doing for the last three movies, which means most of the best lines go to Antonio Banderas’ Puss and the rest to Eddie Murphy’s Donkey, but Shrek himself gets more interesting things to do as himself since probably the first movie, and that surprisingly works to the movie’s advantage as well.
So be under no illusions, let no powders have clouded your mind. If you loved the first two but didn’t like the third so much, chances are you’ll be pitching this one somewhere just above middle. The whole shebang moves along at a good pace, there’s a lively sprinkling of action set pieces and it’s all pleasantly enjoyable. The main problem is that it all runs along at good, without ever really hitting spectacular, hilarious or moving, a pleasant diversion but probably one that leads down a one way street that Shrek should stay down. Unfortunately, in the battle with Toy Story 3, I fear this one is going to be the one to lose out. Sorry, Shrek.
Why see it at the cinema: There’s plenty of communal funnies to share, and a couple of witch on ogre battles that, while they won’t give Peter Jackson any sleepless nights, still benefit from the larger screen to show off all the detail.
Why see it in 3D: The reactions of the kids in the screening I went to were fantastic, lots of “aahs” and “oohs”. But truth be told, the most in-your-face 3D moment is in the Dreamworks logo at the beginning; after that, it’s mostly for visual depth.
The Score: 7/10