"Moving, with Shrekless Abandon"
I saw the first two "Shrek's" in the theater, and made the, in retrospect, wise decision to skip "3" and saw it on TV. The first two were cheeky fun, playing with the conventions of fairy-tales and the mass market merchandizing of same (Hallo, Uncle Walt), while playing with the idea that "Happily Ever After" is a bit relative, after all. "Shrek 3" recycled heroes and villains from the first two, and betrayed a certain Disney-envy by only adding a "Charlie's Angels" bevy of bickering Princessi to the proceedings. Although there were some good gags, it seemed like the ideas had run their course.
"Shrek 4" (whatever it's title is this week) in the required 3-D, at least goes back to the fairy tale world for inspiration, and with some careful noodling with movie idioms comes up with a good idea. Employing the trickster gambit, of those troll-like creatures, who would sell ya a hill of beans or a bill of goods which would promise one outcome and yurn into a life-complicating problem (In our modern times, we call them mortgage brokers and real estate salesmen). In this case, it's "Rumplestiltskin," he of the first-born fetish, who sees all of his troubles stemming from the fact that his little deal to become King of Far Far Away was dashed when Shrek rescued and won Princess Fiona away back in the first picture.
As Fate would have it, the opportunity arises for him to correct his sorry state of affairs: Shrek, now a father of muling puking ogres—no, they're not just infants, they're really ogres—is not feeling the domestic bliss. He misses the old days, when he would grind men's bones to make his bread, and frighten trespassers who came within a league of his hovel, and he didn't have to change diapers and do the chores, and arrange play-dates with donkey's kids. Worst yet, he has to drive a Subaru.*
So, Rumplestiltskin makes a deal where Shrek can have his old life back (the re-establishment of which is done to the tune of The Carpenter's "Top of the World") in exchange for one day—that day being his birthday. He wakes up in a world where he doesn't exist, where Rumplestiltskin is King (as Shrek never rescued Fiona), and in 24 hours he will cease to be.
Unless....(there's always an "Unless"—those old scribes never let themselves be written into a corner) and it entails True Love's Kiss. Naturally.
So, "It's a Wonderful Life" where Shrek must contend with no one knowing who he is, and negotiating his way through a country where he is just one of many ogres in a race war between the greens and the whites. That's all fine for us, but it's mind-warping for the kids in the audience. The infestation of kiddies near me were terror-struck that things were different than what they were used to seeing on the Pacifier at home. Shrek and Fiona aren't married? Donkey and Puss aren't his bff's—best furry friends? What if it doesn't work out and all the DVD's at home are changed...(it's possible, we're talking time-space paradox/parallel worlds here)? That's a lot for wee ones to wrap their tap-dancing sugar-plum minds around.
They'll live. It's odd to see how much more detailed the rendering of the characters is than it used to be. Everything is more crisp and nuanced, while also taking a big step backwards—the lip-sync seems to be a little soft, just fudged a bit to make it "work," and the characters tend to turn away while talking rather than expose it, like hiding bad teeth. Perhaps it always has and I never spotted it before, but I doubt it—it's one of those things I notice in movies. I watched in 2-D, but no one goes out of their way to throw something at the screen, but I'll bet the reality-transition scenes will be spectacular.
New voices this time around include Jon Hamm as a burly ogre-leader and the justifiably ubiquitous Jane Lynch. But the stand-out is Walt Dohrn as Rumplestiltskin; a writer-director of "Spongebob Squarepants," and "Shrek" gag-writer, his mealy-mouthed little schemer is easily the best performance in the film, which, given the usual talent, is really saying something.
"Shrek Forever After" is a Rental.
* Yeah, I made that up.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Shrek Forever After (The Final Chapter)
"Moving, with Shrekless Abandon"