20 June 2010

At the movies: Shrek Forever After.

When animated films reach a certain level of success and they aren’t made by Pixar, they more often than not become self-perpetuating enterprises, with sequels and other ancillaries cranked out to maintain awareness with a fanbase that has proven themselves interested in the brand. It’s a good sign that the makers of the Shrek films have gone in a new direction with this latest film (after the unspeakably awful third film),one that moves in a more contemplative sphere and that addresses issues of family burnout and female empowerment- again, the philosophy seems to be 'design for the kids but write for the adults.' The audience, at this time, is a foregone conclusion.

Frustrated by his increasingly domestic life, the once-feared Shrek longs for a simpler time, when villagers fled from him instead of basking in his fame; before Fiona, and Donkey, and the rest of his friends. Well, he makes the mistake of entering into a pact with the scheming Rumplestilskin and finds himself in a mad universe where he never existed. So it’s an ogre to his own rescue, reencountering all of the elements of the previous films (though the third film is, for the most part, skipped over) in new and weirder ways.

It’s no How To Train Your Dragon, but Shrek Forever After is a definite step in the right direction after the boring third film. The actors know these characters inside and out, and Eddie Murphy’s role as supporting jukebox ends up paying off periodically to great effect. The influx of witches (who live on the outskirts of town in a carriage park) add a new texture to the story, and the villainous Rumpelstilskin has a certain Jack Black/snakemanlike charm.

I am once again annoyed by the determination with which movies seem to value boring family life (their depiction, not my evaluation) above everything else, but Shrek Forever After is a pleasant family entertainment, with at least one line so unexpectedly great that I jostled my glasses off my face from laughing.

Unlike crappy post-processed 3D (Clash of the Titans, this means you), Shrek Forever After was designed and animated for stereoscopic viewing, so you can feel safe spending your 3D moviegoing dollars and not worry about paying a premium for an afterthought.

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