Back in 2001 shortly after the release of the first Shrek I happened to be at a convention with Anne Francis of Forbidden Planet and Honey West fame. She had just taken a young one, I believe it was her nephew, to see the animated blockbuster. To say she was unhappy is an understatement. She was incredibly offended by the toilet humor and had some rather unflattering things to say about pretty much every aspect of the film. Here we are two films later, and I’d have to tell Anne that not much has changed. By my count the film never runs more than 9 minutes without a joke based on feces, farts, or butts. And the truth is it really is a shame, because Shrek is a property too full of talent and startling good CG animation to require that sort of pedestrian humor. I love almost everything about this franchise except the humor.
The voice actors are all top rate and fit their roles perfectly. Michael Myers has redefined his entire career playing Shrek, and there’s no question it’s a stellar performance. As Donkey, Eddie Murphy is only being Eddie Murphy, after all, but the character is exactly what the film needs, so it is once again a perfect match. Cameron Diaz is wonderfully subtle in her portrayal of Fiona, and the addition of Puss In Boots from the second film is a bright fresh character, indeed.
The animation rivals that of the folks at Pixar. The textures are simply awesome. I’m not a fan of the way the humans look, but that has been a problem over at Pixar as well. It seems a ton of work goes into the hair, which is incredibly photorealistic, but the rest of the human features are pretty lame. The Shrek animators pulled off two very difficult things to do at one time. The look of the first Shrek began almost ten years ago. It was very nice for its time, but of course time moves on, and there have been enormous breakthroughs since the first work began on Shrek. So the problem is how does one use the latest advancements, yet retain the established look? Shrek The Third handles this animation dilemma with flair. There is no question you are still in the same world as that first film, but the new technology vastly improves the overall look, subtly without grand visual differences in style. I can’t say enough about how good the “look” of Shrek The Third is.
So why, with all of this wonderful voice acting and a brilliant animation team, do the writers feel the need to completely bog down their work with fart and crap jokes? This stuff stopped being funning in elementary school. I can forgive the occasional crude reference, after all, why not allow your writers to indulge themselves from time to time. Unfortunately a lot of great work is wasted on cheap humor, and the end result suffers tremendously.
The story is a little weaker than the previous Shrek films. We arrive in Far Far Away pretty much where Shrek 2 left off. Prince Charming is reduced to acting in low budget play productions, living out his fantasy of taking out Shrek. All the while Shrek and Fiona have been filling in for the king. Both are tired of royal duties and yearn for the day soon when they can return to the swamp. Unfortunately the king croaks, literally. This was a frog king, after all. The king’s last wish is for Shrek to assume power. When Shrek pushes for an alternate heir the king reveals there is another… Arthur. So Shrek and pals set off for
Shrek The Third is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. There’s a lot to love about this transfer, if not the film itself. This picture is so razor sharp you just might cut yourself. Images stand out with great reference color and solid black levels. Shadow and detail are almost as good as Pixar standards. Movement is fluid and the renderings are incredibly smooth. The film does tend to blur near the edges, however. There are no compression problems. The print is a clean obvious digital to digital transfer.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track was a bit of a disappointment. For a modern film this presentation lacks any energy. Occasionally during the music numbers you finally get some life out of the surrounds, but for the most part this is a front channel heavy affair. The clarity is quite good but never turns into anything more dynamic. Subs are ridiculously idle throughout the adventure. You can hear everything fine, but I think you will have expected so much more here.
There really isn’t any doubt that more Shrek is on the way. I would really like to see them take a chance and up the sophistication for a change. There’s simply too much wasted talent for such a lame story. I guess there are plenty of folks who are easily amused, and Shrek films certainly pull in a ton of cash, so maybe I’m just a little out of touch. Simply put, if you loved the first two Shrek films you will likely be entertained here. If not, you’ll have the same reservations with Shrek The Third. It’s just like the original, but with this film you get “extra poop”.