What Green Hell is This?

The “Shrek” franchise has been pumping out sequel after sequel for the last decade, on a dragon wing and a prayer that Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy can still make the kids giggle. Hmm. How to break this to them gently?

In the latest and final chapter of the seemingly never-ending series — which has almost reached “Land Before Time” proportions — our jolly green anti-hero is stuck in a midlife crisis. With three wee ogies, an inexhaustible honey-do-this list from Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and a day-in day-out diaper routine, Shrek (Mike Myers) longs for the good ol’ days, when his sole responsibility was terrorizing the townsfolk. His frustration comes to a boiling point at the triplets’ birthday party, where he smashes their cake before storming off into the woods.

It’s here that the film begins to walk the line of prequel and sequel. Turns out villainous ginger Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) — who rivals Lord Farquaad in height and Pee Wee Herman in voice — was making a deal with Fiona’s parents just as Shrek was saving her from the dragon’s keep in the 2001 original. Rumpelstiltskin agreed to free Fiona from her curse in exchange for the keys to the kingdom.

Seeing as his original plan was obviously thwarted, Shrek’s current predicament becomes the perfect opportunity for Rumpelstiltskin’s revenge. Blinded by frustration, Shrek offers up any one day of his past in exchange for one day in the life of a carefree ogre. In a poof of evil green smoke, Rumpelstiltskin chooses the day Shrek was born, and the world’s most lovable monster is thrust into a sad, dark world in which he never existed.

In this alternate reality, Rumpelstiltskin reigns as king with the help of his witch minions, and — get excited, feminists — Fiona is the leader of the Resistance, an underground ogre movement determined to overthrow the tyrant with pitchforks and chimichangas.

An obvious homage to “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this installment is a helluva lot weightier than the previous three. Sure, the burps, farts and snarky pop-culture references are all there, but only to cover up the fattest load of overlying adult existentialism we’ve seen so far in the series. More than ever, underlying messages are bound to get lost in translation to the rows of confused kindergarteners in the theater.

The “Shrek” series has never been entirely innocent — as per the infamous “Maybe he’s compensating for something” joke, in reference to the size of Farquaad’s castle — but the swamp humor used to be enough to keep the kiddies entertained while the more mature jokes flew stealthily over their heads.

Sadly, though, the innocent-slapstick side of the scale is unbearably light this time around. Who goes to an animated comedy to be told that “happily ever after” is just an illusion? We go because we want to see the Gingerbread Man squeal until his gumdrop buttons pop off.

Perhaps that’s the reason director Mike Mitchell opted for kid-friendly 3-D, sending broomsticks careening toward our faces and at least allowing us to laugh at how everyone looks in dorky spectacles.

But the franchise can no longer rely on cutting-edge technology for popularity (just compare its animation, which was revolutionary in the early 2000s, to Disney’s recent “How to Train Your Dragon”). Instead, the series, which averages about $341 million per installment, will continue to be critically acclaimed for its devotion to the formula: Woo children with furry woodland creatures and entertain their parents with sly witticisms.

But — while the fairytale mashup’s hilarious voice-to-character juxtaposition and singing Donkey may have won us over 10 years ago — the comedic, visual and musical stalemate (yes, we’re forced to sit through “I’m a Believer” again) of “Shrek Forever After” makes it hard to remember why on Earth we loved it so much in the first place.

More to Discover
Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

Donate to The UCSD Guardian
$200
$500
Contributed
Our Goal