Three-Word Review of “Shrek Forever After”

Fairly told fairytale.

Captions don't count: I’m a pretty big believer in Shrek -- aside from all the money he made with his first movie, I genuinely like that flick and think it will still be enjoyed in 50 years. That original movie mixed a hard-to-control and harder-to-replicate tincture of snarky comedy, sweet comedy and genuine heart. I believe the rampant pop-culture references in “Shrek 1” will be no more baffling or off-putting in a half century than your average Gilbert & Sullivan opera. (Who knows what half of those political jokes are in “The Mikado”? But damn if it still isn’t popular.) Still, there was never a “Mikado 2,” and likewise the subsequent Shreks diminished their own returns as the tincture turned a bit pasty: genuine heart (the rarest ingredient) was in short supply, throwing off the proportions of sweet comedy, and requiring the balance to come from the universe’s vast stores of blunt, unsubtle, snarky comedy. I’m happy to say the fourth movie reversed this trend, to the point where I feel compelled to take to the Internet and say a word of praise. Not that the heart has returned in force. Indeed, it’s a pretty unoriginal kick-in-the-groin that gets our hero’s journey started: Shrek is in a rut! Having a mid-life crisis! Feeling trapped by family and friends and familiarity! Doesn’t appreciate what he has! If only he could trade it all away! But the movie is rescued by a few factors: 1.) Walt Dohrn as Rumplestiltskin is a fun villain to watch. Between the voice, the impish facial animation and his little doll-bodied antics, he’s a hoot to root against. Also, he’s surrounded by a retinue of Oz witches -- come on, the Wicked Witch; one of the best-designed bad guys in the history of bad guys! This is a spiffy template of a character to work with. 2.) Shrek’s magical bargaining that robs him of his day of birth leads to a fun alternate universe that was easy to believe and fun to explore. Without Shrek, history took a dark turn, with surprising fates for all his friends. For the first time in a while, I cared about -- and remained curious about -- how Shrek was going to set things right. 3.) Bits of comedy that lingered beyond the end credits. It’s been a week, and my kids are still imitating a quick one-off line delivered from a clingy fanboy who wants Shrek to do a personal performance: “Do the roar. Do the roar. Do the roar.” The way that joke ends still makes me chuckle. So if I assume Shrek will never get his lightning in a bottle the way he did with his first movie, then I can accept that he ended his franchise with an encore worthy of an ogre.

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