I was actually really cautious as I went in to see the fourth and supposedly final chapter in the series, Shrek Forever After. Expecting another really disappointing installment, I was actually satisfied with the series’ fourth and hopefully final chapter. Ney, Shrek Forever After isn’t the last grab for cash the film could have been, but it is call back to the greater days of Shrek with a really fun and worthwhile installment. The story takes place sometime after the series of events in the third film, setting Shrek in a “mid-life crisis” of sorts as he comes into a bizarro world where he was never born and the kingdom of Far Far Away is completely changed after making a deal with the forlorn Rumpelstilskin. As I said earlier, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Shrek 3, and expected more of that in this installment, but this “final chapter” really had something good going for it in that it seemed more like a fun “bite-sized” Shrek movie. They focus less on building for other films and other characters and just focus on Shrek and the humor of the film and that ends up giving the audience a really worthwhile animated film. Here you have an exhausted animated film franchise that’s had a near 10 year life span, and you make it entertaining by just focusing on one story and one plotline that’s quick fun and fast and really just serves its own 90 minute purpose. I’ve always been sorta “meh” about the Shrek voice cast, I thought John Lithgow was perfect back in the original Shrek and Mike Myers has always been ok, but it seemed to me Shrek 4 really had a good voice cast with plenty of good modern comedic talent to back it up. Craig Robinson, one of my favorite current comedians, has a good stint in the film as a cook in the ogre camp, playing it really deadpan but also having a few great lines. Jon Hamm from 30 Rock and Mad Men also sports a great part as sort of a companion to Shrek, and of course we have our usual rag-tag teams including the sometimes funny Eddie Murphy and the “still not selling me on the idea” Antonio Banderas. That all being said, I couldn’t help but be a little bit let down with the villain arc of this movie. The first film had John Lithgow as the King and Shrek 2 had the incredibly great ending involving Jennifer Saunders as the wicked Fairy Godmother, but Walt Dohm’s performance and the way they play out Rumpelstilskin’s character never really makes him that menacing or like his whole scheme really is that threatening. We’re never really convinced any of the characters are in any real danger, we all know everything’s going to work out, and in the end the villain just sorta feels like a “mini-villain” (no pun intended) that should take place between Shrek 1 and 2 almost. Whether it’s my own age or the age of the franchise, the humor throughout most of the film felt really hit or miss. There were a few times I just wanted to shout “Oh Come On!” or roll my eyes at the half-baked attempts at good visual gags, but other times the film got more than a chuckle out of me (the Flip Flop Fridays joke was hysterical). I still remember many of the gags from Shrek 1 being top-notch (mainly b/c it wasn’t afraid of pleasing a demographic, remember those off-color jokes that killed?), but the humor in Shrek 4 either completely misses or hits its target right on the nose. All being said, if you enjoyed Shrek 1 and 2 and really didn’t care for Shrek 3 like me, then Shrek 4 isn’t the trainwreck you’re thinking it’s going to be, in fact, it’s a completely satisfying film, but it’s nothing more. Compared to other animated films like The Princess and the Frog and Up, heck even Dreamworks’ own How to Train Your Dragon 3D which is miles better than this that they released 2 months ago, Shrek doens’t break new ground, but at least Dreamworks sent it’s pioneer green ogre out (hopefully) on a good note.
7 out of 10