sun 20/04/2014

Shrek Forever After | Film reviews, news & interviews

Shrek Forever After

Animation franchise about a lovable ogre goes out on a high note

No fool like an ogre fool: Shrek is tempted by Rumpelstiltskin to sign his life away

The fourth and last instalment of the ogre animation is a belter. It’s in 3D for one thing and, while the pop culture and film references have been toned down in Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke’s screenplay (directed by Mike Mitchell), in order to tell a gentle morality tale, it takes as its inspiration Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. And that’s a very good starting point for any movie.

Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers), now living in connubial bliss with his beloved Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their three babies - a trio of burping, farting little green ogres - is in a rut. He may be a local celebrity and loved throughout the land of Far Far Away, but the sheer unrelenting, well, niceness of his life, with its routine of baby-feeding and nappy-changing, makes him long for the old days, when he was a proper ogre who frightened people with his roar. Now there are even coachloads of tourists who come to gawk at the tamed beast he has become.

So he makes the mistake of wishing this existence away, just for one day, when Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) comes along and grants his wish. As soon as Shrek signs the dodgy contract with the nasty little troll we enter a parallel universe, where we see what would have happened if Shrek had never been born, which is what Rumpelstiltskin's contract actually says in invisible ink.

The greedy troll is now king of Far Far Away and his despotic rule is maintained by lots and lots of scary witches, while Fiona and her fellow ogres are in a (literally) underground resistance movement. Donkey (Eddie Murphy), who still never misses an opportunity to burst into song, pulls a cart for the royal palace, Fiona’s pet cat, Puss (Antonio Banderas), is fat and lazy and the Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon) is a slave. Shrek must find a way to escape the contract with Rumpelstiltskin and convince Fiona - who doesn't recognise him - that she’s the mother of his children in another life.

So Shrek must make Fiona fall in love with him again but this feisty, no-nonsense warrior barely notices his existence and he keeps making a fool of himself in her presence; how to make true love's kiss, the only thing that can reverse Rumpelstiltskin’s cruel spell, happen?

The film switches gears at this point as we see the goodies try to regain Far Far Away, and the clock winds down on Shrek’s 24 hours (although I got confused about the details of the time-space continuum and I’m sure others will too). There are terrific aerial fight scenes involving the witches who guard Rumpelstiltskin’s palace, but even the scary bits won’t upset the very young ones, and there’s enough knowing humour to cause adult guffaws; my favourite line is a bemused Shrek saying to Fiona when he and Donkey accidentally discover the revolutionaries’ lair, disguised with sweetstuffs: “.... and the next thing I know my donkey fell in your waffle hole". Shrek 4's score is almost a character in itself and caused much laughter in the audience when I saw the film - not least when “Top of the World” by the Carpenters was the audio backdrop for the spell-ridden Shrek’s rampage through his village.

Of course we know that true love - and goodness of heart - will win out in the end, but how the film-makers get there is a riveting watch with lots of funnies. A high note to go out on.

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