There are basically two reasons to make a sequel: 1) to extend the franchise so you can make more money, or 2) because you have a good story to tell while making more money. Reason number 1 is obviously the more common of the two. This explains the general rule that sequels are never as good or better than the originals. But there are rare exceptions. The Godfather and The Godfather Part 2. Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Alien and Aliens. The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2. But all these rare sequels (with the exception of the Toy Story series – for the time being) seem to have another general rule: they are all followed by a second sequel which makes you think they went to the well one too many times.

Much like the rest of the film,
Shrek and Arthur can’t decide which direction they’re going.

Shrek the Third begins with the search for a new king of Far Far Away after Fiona’s father, King Harold, croaks – literally and figuratively. An unsuspecting Shrek and his secretly expecting wife are next in line to the throne. Shrek, who wants nothing more than to get back to his swamp, is not interested in the job. That leaves Arthur, a distant cousin in a high school across the sea. Shrek, Donkey, and Puss set off on another whirlwind adventure to find him and bring him back. Unfortunately Arthur seems to be less royal material than Shrek. While they are away Prince Charming, who believes the throne was stolen from him, joins with the fairy tale villains to try to reclaim it. After capturing the kingdom’s princesses he begins his reign by preparing to kill Shrek in, well, an elaborate musical theatre production!

While that description may sound promising, the result disappoints. The plot is paper thin and secondary to the jokes. The writers have followed the basic rules of the sequel and they do come up with a few requisite story points that advance the characters. But their execution is clumsy and hurried. And this is one of the big things that really makes the film feel like a sequels’ sequel. One of the pivotal themes running through the film is fatherhood and it looms over Shrek throughout the movie. So in an obviously important scene, like when Fiona is ready to tell here husband she is pregnant, you would think they would take the time to give the scene the time it needs to play out. Instead they’re in such a hurry to get the boys on the way to their quest – since they think that is where the real story is – she ends up just yelling the news to him as he is leaving. The two then never discuss it again until the final minutes of the film! This trend continues scene after scene. Perhaps the cause for the thin plot is that there are just too many story lines competing for screen time. Is the film a story about Shrek preparing for fatherhood? Or a buddy movie with the boys? Maybe a chick flick with the princesses deciding not to wait for their prince to come? OK, but don’t forget we have a bad guy plotting to take over the kingdom. Maybe it is not surprising then by the time we reach the climax between Shrek and Charming it is wrapped up much too easily. Either the filmmakers felt the movie was running long, they didn’t want to spend the time or money to create a proper ending, or they couldn’t come up with an ending to tie it all up. Whatever the reason, it feels like a cop-out and you are just waiting for them to pounce with the real ending any second.

As the plot seems secondary to the jokes, it is unfortunate that the jokes don’t deliver either. Fans of the series expecting the usual breakneck-paced, pop-culture filled, over-the-top humor will be let down. Some sparks of the Shrek-wit are there, and several full scenes are classic Shrek. Gingy provides one of the funniest scenes in the film as his life flashes before his eyes – from his dough being rolled out to the physical therapy he endured after Lord Farquaad had his legs broke off in the first film! But the overall feel is much more muted than the past outings.

Shrek’s a daddy! That would’ve been a good idea for a movie.

DreamWorks is well known for loving to fill their films with the most famous celebrity voices they can, and this time it actually works pretty well. We’re all used to the regulars voicing the leads now. But newcomers like Justin Timberlake and Eric Idle have done a good job at figuring out their characters which makes it much less distracting to hear a voice you already know coming from them.

Especially on par for an animated sequel, it doesn’t seem the filmmakers decided to push any animation boundaries here. There is really noting to complain about as it appears to be at the relatively high level of the second film. But one of the downsides to sequels is someone has already created the style of the world and most of the characters. Since straying outside those limits would feel wrong in the film, for consistency’s sake less time is spent moving the technology forward.

Shrek the Third is a fun film and fans of the other two will enjoy it. But it is so disappointing since the bar was raised so well in the second film. The filmmakers took the fun and silly little first Shrek and were able to add a substantial story in the second film all the while keeping the elements that made its predecessor so popular. They did not do that here, and the result is a movie that seems to have been made solely for the large amounts of cash it will inevitably rake in.

Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?

Shrek the Third
May 18, 2007
92 minutes
Rated PG
directed by Chris Miller and Raman Hui