In 2001 when “Shrek” first appeared, I thought it was a clever take on the world of fairy tales. By its fourth film, “Shrek Forever After,” the series has been forced to reuse its old material and give the audience a plot that shows little advancement of characters and one that doesn’t even matter in the end.
Shrek (Myers) is now a father living with Fiona (Cameron Diaz) in his shack in the woods. But the married life does not sit well with Shrek. He wants to go back to the time when he was carefree and had to please no one but himself. After ruining the first birthday of his children, he leaves the party and runs into Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohrn), who gives him the opportunity to give up one day of his childhood in exchange for becoming a real ogre for the day. Shrek jumps at the chance but is soon disappointed to find out that Rumplestiltskin has more sinister plans for Shrek.
What bothers me the most about this movie is that by the end, the only character we’ve seen developed is Shrek. With the story being placed in a world where Shrek and Fiona have never met, what we’re watching ultimately has no bearing on the lives of these characters. A different standalone adventure would’ve given us closure to all the characters we’ve watched and not just one.
The cast of “Shrek” aren’t bringing anything new to the table vocally. Myers still sounds the same as Shrek and Eddie Murphy is just as annoying as ever as Donkey. The standout here, though, is Dohrn as Rumplestiltskin. His voice talent really brought his character to life. It’s a shame that they brought this character into the series now at its end instead of in the earlier films. His villainy is entertaining to watch.
The pop culture references that the “Shrek” films are known for provide slight enjoyment. In the first film it was something new that had never been done before in an animated film to such degree. But the fourth time around, it’s just irritating and pointless. When creating a what-if storyline that has no weight in the world of “Shrek,” the standby anachronistic music and rib-nudging jokes just don’t have the strength to make the story shine.
Like the earlier films, the real standouts here are the characters that don’t receive the screen time they deserve, most notably Pinocchio and the Gingerbread Man. Ancillary characters like these are what give the “Shrek” films their charm. It’s a shame they were mostly kept in the background on this one.
The fact of the matter is that “Shrek” is really not a huge moneymaker anymore, which should thankfully mean the end of these films. “Shrek Forever After” is shaping up to be the lowest grossing film of the series, and it’s not without reason. “Shrek” has lost the creativity behind it that once made it such a profitable and engaging franchise, which really started with “Shrek The Third.” It’s definitely time to put this series to rest as it has become well-worn and just tiresome. Thankfully, we still have the films of Pixar to look forward to.