After the rubbish that was Shrek the Third, I thought if the filmmakers wanted to give us a happily ever after, they should stop making Shrek movies. My reaction to news about this fourth installment was, “Really?! Is it called ‘Every Last (Henny) Penny Wrung’?”

So I don’t know if it was because of my low expectations but Shrek Forever After (opening Friday, May 21) is better than I thought it would be, though it’s not up to par with numbers 1 and 2 and really should be the last. It’s as if everyone went back to the drawing board to rediscover why the movies were good in the first place and made a concerted effort to justify this sequel’s existence. And that’s what Forever After does—go back in time and ask the It’s a Wonderful Life-ish question: What if Shrek (Mike Myers) had never been born and therefore never saved Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from the tower?

The situation stems from Shrek feeling too domesticated by his wife and three babies, fearing the loss of his true ogre-ness. He can’t take a mud bath in peace, his roar no longer scares anyone and is treated like a party trick. Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) comes along and promises Shrek one day in which he can be a carefree ogre again, without any familial responsibilities to blunt his edge. Shrek must give Rumpy a day from his past in exchange, so the evil R (I’m not typing that long-ass name over and over) takes the one when Shrek was born. This creates an alternate universe in which Rump rules Far Far Away with witches as sycophants and ogres as slaves.

But Fiona doesn’t take the situation lying down. She has escaped the dragon’s keep all by herself and become a leader of the revolution to overthrow Rumpy’s tyranny. She doesn’t have time for romance; she doesn’t even know Shrek when he shows up. He has exactly one day to extract a true love’s kiss from her before he turns into nothingness.

The movie is darker in tone than I remember the others being, with scenes of ogres in chains and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) being repeatedly whipped while used to pull a carriage. Though cowed, Donkey still has his trademark mouthiness. When he meets Shrek and thinks the ogre is going to eat him, he yells: “Eat my face last and send my hooves to my mama!” Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) probably gets the most laughs as a fat lazy cat no longer wearing his trademark footwear. And I must admit a badass chain-mailed Fiona throwing knives is more interesting than Housewife Fiona.

Myers, Murphy and Diaz turn in their reliable voice work (while stars like Jon Hamm and Jane Lynch are underused), but the cool backstory here is that Dohrn, the movie’s story editor, got to voice Rumpelstiltskin. Early in production, Dohrn recorded temp tracks for the animators to use while drawing the character, fully expecting an actor to replace his voice in the final version. But DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg apparently loved Dohrn’s work and kept it in, putting his name up in lights next to the A-list stars’. I’d call that a fairytale ending.

Nerd verdict: Diverting Forever After

Animation courtesy DreamWorks



  • Reply
    May 20, 2010 at 6:29 am

    Wonderful review, PCN. I’ll be taking my kids to this on the weekend (I’ll be re-watching Iron Man 2 in the other theater at the plex while they watch it, though). After 1 & 2, I’ve enjoyed all I want of the SHREK films — for me, the films and the series age too quickly for my taste. I’m sure I’ll see this at home when it’s out on disc (and my children re-watch it endlessly). Thanks for this, Elyse.

  • Reply
    Jen Forbus
    May 20, 2010 at 8:38 am

    I’ll probably catch this one on DVD with my niece and nephew. I really liked the first one. I don’t think I watched any after that, though.

    I’m really looking forward to TOY STORY 3, though!

    • Reply
      May 20, 2010 at 8:45 am

      Oh, you got that right, Jen! TOY STORY 3 will be one of my MUST SEEs for the summer season (oh, and I think my kids would like to view it, also) ;-).

  • Reply
    May 20, 2010 at 10:22 am

    Most studios do everything they can to make sure they wring every last dime out of their animation movies and the quality always suffers. I guess they figure a lot of parents look at animated movies as a place to drop of their kids while errands get done.

    That said, they sometimes do get it right and, from your review, they seem to have gotten right again. Good for them! Good for us!

    Thanks for giving me the skinny on a movie I would have ordinarily not seen. And one I can take my nieces and nephews to as well.

  • Reply
    May 20, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    Are you sure about this? I can’t sit through another piece of c%%p movie with my ADD riddled kids. I am “that Uncle” who always get stuck bringing his nieces and nephews to films because I get along with little kids. My wife and I are glorified unpaid babysitters every Saturday during the Summer. Love most movies, but I need a film that will not only hold my attention, but one the kids will sit still during as well.

    They DID sit still during BABIES. That was fun. But yet another installment of Shrek? I guess I’ll stock up on the aspirin and get back to you after the weekend.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  • Reply
    Shell Sherree
    May 20, 2010 at 11:18 pm

    Animation or otherwise, I’ll be horrified at watching Donkey being whipped! But I love that still of Puss in Boots, my fave character of these movies. {Antonio Banderas’s voice plays no small part in that!} Thanks as always, PCN ~ good to know that this one’s reasonable. And that’s a wonderful story about Dohrn ~ a fairytale ending, for sure!

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