WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Big green Shrek (Mike Myers) is growing tired of living happily ever after in a land far away.
Being a family man, with his equally big and green Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their three babies, has lost its appeal and he longs to be able to relive his past days as a fearsome ogre.
He strikes a deal with the cheeky chancer Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) that allows him to experience, once again, the excitement of striking fear into humans with his booming roar. But he soon realises the flip-side of his deal-with-the-devil: he’s now in another world, where none of his friends know him and his days are very much numbered.
Shrek has until the sun comes up, the following day, to break the spell and restore normality – but to do that, he has to win back the trust of all those he used to know – and win back the love of Fiona.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
It would be churlish to suggest this film wasn’t fun, but it doesn’t meet the high standards the first episode of Shrek’s story, nine years ago.
There’s a very real sense in which by setting most of part four in an alternate universe in which none of Shrek’s friends from the earlier films know him, at times, this feels like a re-run of the best bits – almost a greatest hits compilation – as he struggles to meet and win over the people he needs to help him survive.
Many of the gags work in their own right, but don’t work on as many levels as the satire of the earlier parts of the franchise. The humour doesn’t run as deep, with the story following a more familiar path of re-examining your life from the outside and realising that maybe what you had was what you really wanted after all.
There’s a bit of Christmas Carol in there – and arguably, if James Stewart was green, overweight, had peculiar vuvuzela-shaped ears, a smug grin and a mock Scottish accent, you could retitle this film “Shrek’s a Wonderful Life.”
The voice talent is universally as impressive as you would expect, but it seems to be almost more a case of them doing this to entertain themselves, rather than us.
Very few franchises make it to number four and clearly there are issues with keeping it feeling fresh, but taking familiar characters from and exploring themes of a variety of big screen classics doesn’t seem to be the best way to reinvigorate the fairytale genre – or the subgenre inhabited by Shrek’s earlier outings.
Then of course there’s the 3D element – there are a handful of moments, such as horses running towards the screen and characters being thrust high into the air, viewed from above, which were clearly designed to take advantage of the gimmick – while the technology adds absolutely nothing to most of the other scenes.
The 3D is perfectly effective, but rather pointless. Much like the film as a whole.