Bottom Line: The last Shrek is a terrific and wildly entertaining end to the franchise that reminds us why we love these characters.
Let’s face it — nobody actually knows if this is going to be the last film in the successful Shrek franchise. But if it does in fact end up being Dreamworks’ last ogre hurrah, then it’s a damn good way to go out.
We find Shrek (Mike Myers) as a domestic, family-oriented ogre, longing for the chance to be a “real ogre” again — scaring villagers, living in muddy solitude, the whole nine yards. So he signs a deal with the wily Rumpelstiltskin (the fantastic Walt Dohrn) to get one free day as a real wild ogre again. All Shrek has to do is give up a day to get a day, but he’s tricked into giving up the day he was born. Thus, he never existed.
In the alternate universe of Far Far Away, the kingdom is in chaos. Ogres are enslaved by vicious witches in a court ruled by Rumpelstiltskin, and Shrek’s friends and family don’t recognize him. Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is a fierce warrior and the head of the ogre resistance. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is a cart-pulling mule terrified of Shrek. Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is overweight and lazy. Shrek has 24 hours to find a way out of his contract, or his entire existence will disappear.
The lackluster Shrek the Third doesn’t hold a candle to this new chapter, which is wildly fun and extremely funny, two qualities missing from the last sequel. Shrek Forever After works on so many levels and returns the movie to its roots. With such a simple plot, the film really focuses on the characters, and everyone is given enough screen time to remind us why these fairy tale beings were so damn funny in the first place.
As always, the film shines because of its leads. Myers and Diaz are emotionally strong and constant. Dreamworks writer Walt Dohrn brings a hilarious lunacy to the baddie (who tops the list of brilliant Shrek villains).
But it’s Banderas and Murphy who steal the show. The two must have decided to up their already-fantastic game for the last movie, and they really bring the laughs this time around.
Also, look for strong supporting performances by Glee’s Jane Lynch, The Office’s Craig Robinson and Mad Men’s Jon Hamm as an ogre warrior who looks disturbingly like the source of his voice. Blink, and you’ll miss cameos by Ryan Seacrest, Kathy Griffin and Meredith Vieira.
Some of the visual gags in this installment are really hilarious, in particular Rumpelstiltskin’s deranged pet goose and a scene with alternate-universe Gingey as an animal cracker-fighting cookie gladiator. The key to enjoying Shrek Forever After is letting yourself laugh when you want to, and the movie provides a ton of opportunities for it. Whether it’s Donkey singing a variety of classic rock songs (pulling double duty as a radio) or Puss in Boots making excuses for his weight gain, the film is really a return to the sight gags and punchlines that made the first film sparkle.
It’s no surprise that the movie is in 3D (since, let’s face it, everything is nowadays). The added dimension enhances the action sequences and beautiful scenic design of the film. It’s the kind of movie that 3D was made for. Fun to look at and even more fun to watch, Shrek Forever After is really a treat, and although it’s not perfect, it should and will still pull in some big numbers for Dreamworks. (Also, stick around through the credits for a nostalgic look back at the whole franchise.)