By now you’ve probably seen at least one of seven film posters advertising the impending return of everyone’s favorite ogre, Shrek. Of all the taglines in all the world, that one that will have you scratching your head will likely be “Waffles in the face of danger”. The tagline will be explained in the anticipated fourth installment of the successful franchise, Shrek Forever After – that’s a guarantee. Of course, with this being The Final Chapter, there is the hope that the film itself will have a self-explanatory ending and an air of finality, ideally with the inhabitants of Far Far Away living, well, happily ever after.
Shrek Forever After finds Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) in marital bliss, raising their three children in their humble abode in the swamp, punctuated by visits from their best friend Donkey (Eddie Murphy), his wife Dragon, and their mutant Dronkey children. It is nothing but the perfect life for the family man Shrek has become. But with the perfect life comes responsibilities – including but not limited to waking up early, changing diapers, and, ultimately, being depended on by countless others. It is then that Shrek realizes how much he misses his life as an ogre who lived to be alone and found pride in being feared by the people of Far Far Away. Naturally, Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dorhn), the dealer of deals, decides to capitalize on the misguided ogre’s mental preoccupation with an offer he can’t refuse: the chance to experience his old life for a whole day. No responsibilities, no obligations. All Shrek has to do is give up a day in his life. A day for a day seems like a fair exchange, but little does Shrek know that there is no such thing as a fair deal with Rumplestiltskin.
Plot-wise, Shrek Forever After runs steadily along the vein of It’s a Wonderful Life, what with the desire to experience anything but one’s current situation. Throughout the course of the film, Shrek encounters upside down personalities within his friends and family in the parallel universe that has been created just for him. With this comes a new cast of characters whose purpose is to bring more life into the film, but instead can be perceived as being either completely memorable or completely forgettable. A handful of ogres (the voices of Jon Hamm, Jane Lynch, and Craig Robinson) add flavor to the universe in which they reside, but not much substance when held against the primary storyline and subsequent twists. It will be clear to viewers, however, that it is Rumplestiltskin who steals the show. Burned, bitter, and constantly compensating for something, he is not the perfect villain, but does he ever try.
The way the film follows through, it is uncertain what demographic Shrek Forever After is trying to appeal to. Visually and gag-wise, you could say it is to the tiniest of tykes. Humor-wise, you could say it is to the adult who brought them (G-rated: a visual of Shrek and his sympathetic sack of diapers and baby toys; PG-13-rated: if the line “My donkey fell into your waffle hole” isn’t a double entendre, we don’t know what is). At best, it’s not at all unreasonable to assume that the ones who actually grew up on these films — the now teenagers and/or young adults — will take the most from this film, and will be the best at judging whether or not it well rounds out the saga. In our opinion, however, Shrek Forever After does prove to be gold, but only after some painstaking spindle work.