Shrek is going through a mid-life crisis – which is bad news for him and not so much fun for the rest of us.
At the start of Shrek Forever After, his fourth and reportedly last big-screen outing, Mike Myers‘ curmudgeonly green ogre has grown tired of the joys of domesticity with Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and the kids.
Longing to get his old life back, if only for a day, he is tricked into signing a pact with the slippery Rumpelstiltskin, which thrusts him into an appalling alternative reality. In this parallel world, he never rescued Fiona from her tower and as a consequence the kingdom of Far Far Away has turned into a hideous tyranny ruled over by Rumpelstiltskin.
The only way to put things right is by gaining ‘True Love’s Kiss’ – but how can he get within smooching distance of Fiona, now that she’s a warrior princess leading the ogre resistance to Rumpy’s rule?
As you’ll have spotted, Shrek Forever After takes its inspiration from Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life – with Shrek cast in the James Stewart role of the protagonist who gets to see how the world would look without him.
The plot gives the animators the chance to tweak and refresh some of the series’ familiar characters – Eddie Murphy’s motor-mouthed Donkey no longer recognises Shrek and Antonio Banderas‘s Puss-in-Boots has been so pampered that he has become a literal Fat Cat.
This is fun, as far as it goes, but all the same I can’t help feeling that it’s a good thing DreamWorks is wrapping up the franchise – if that is indeed the case – while it is still ahead.
The first Shrek film, when it came out in 2001, dazzled audiences with the smartness of its script and the lustre of its animation. But the original Shrek’s inspired mash-up of the world of fairy tales and contemporary pop culture is now yielding diminishing returns, while the animation – even with the addition of 3D – no longer seems as exciting as it once did.
Even a sub-par Shrek is still a good deal wittier than most of the competition, but now that the loveable ogre has coped with his mid-life crisis, perhaps it really is time for him to retire.
On general release from 2nd July.