Screenwriters: Jeffrey Price, Peter S Seaman, Chris Miller, Aron Warner
Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas
Running time: 93 mins
Following the two highly successful films in the Shrek franchise was always going to be a tough proposition. A highly amusing opening to the third instalment bodes well, but ultimately the narrative becomes so uninvolving that there’s some heavy duty thumb twiddling involved. Apparently that’s not a bad calorie burner, but it can’t salvage Shrek 3 from being a real disappointment.
The ropey storyline revolves around Shrek’s quest to find a successor to the throne in Far Far Away, after his father-in-law King Harold shuffles his mortal coil. He heads off on a fairly tedious quest to find Artie, a possible heir and his only chance to avoid doing the job himself. As if that wasn’t enough to contend with, his missus Fiona is pregnant and the sinister Prince Charming is amassing various villainous characters such as Captain Hook to stage a takeover of Far, Far Away.
The bright and breezy start to Shrek 3 features an array of brilliantly set up and executed visual gags, steamrollering even the most cynical viewer into laughter. The death of King Harold, a frog, is hilarious despite its morbid nature. Voiced by John Cleese, the dying monarch seems to croak it several times, but keeps coming back from the throes of death for one last message. A frantic sequence set in the theatre, with Shrek and his wife Fiona dolled up in full King and Queen garb, also hits the right balance between pure slapstick and visual invention. As for Shrek’s surreal nightmare about being swamped with a mass of baby ogres – genius.
Several individual moments work well, but a solid, cohesive film cannot be based on these. So when Shrek 3 enters the necessary scenes of plot exposition the interest quickly wanes. Simply lacking any narrative hook, we’re forced to endure the torturous quest to find the Justin Timberlake-voiced Artie, a real damp squib of a character utterly bereft of remotely interesting dialogue. A subplot involving an excursion to find Merlin the magician is a more effective insomnia cure than anything available over the counter in your local chemists, or even under it.
The reliable double act of Antonio Banderas and Eddie Murphy as Puss in Boots and Donkey raises a few chuckles with their banter, but not enough to paper over the fissures in the narrative structure. As Shrek pursues Artie and tries to convince him to take over as King, there’s not sufficient cutting back to the plot strand featuring Fiona and her cohorts captured in Far Far Away after their land is invaded. It’s easy to forget their predicament, meaning that when the action does return to their plight we don’t care anymore and any tension has dispersed.
With a plot lacking no urgency, Shrek 3 is a well-animated film containing a few standout, but ultimately throwaway sequences that don’t do enough to sustain our interest.