May 26, 2010

Goodbye Shrek !

Loosely based upon a story by children’s author William Steig (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble), Shrek is a satiric fairy-tale love story which has been genuinely funny and entertaining since its inception. Having watched all the previous three movies of this franchise multiple times, I must admit I was quite looking forward to the final chapter and hoping that the beloved ogre leaves us on a high note. And he does. Heartfelt and hilarious, this sequel is inspired heavily from Capra’s “Its a Wonderful Life”.

The film starts brilliantly by showing a montage of Shrek’s life replete with three squalling and rambunctious li’l ogres, a loving wife Fiona and a great friend Donkey. In short, a perfect but boring life. And of course Shrek hates it like any other man going through a mid-life crisis! The images are then shown in rapid succession where every passing day is worse than the previous day, until one day Shrek finally throws a royal fit on one of the kid’s birthday and wishes aloud that things could go back to what they were before he had ever met Fiona! As they say, you never know how good things are until they are gone!

Enter the sleazy snarky villain Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn), the famous trickster from Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The vengeful devil with ridiculous spiky red hair and predatory eyes convinces the naive ogre to sign away any one day of his childhood. In return, Shrek gets to live one day of his life the way he would have liked; a life of no responsibilites, a life where he can make mud angels till the cows came home, a life where the villagers are still scared of his mighty roar! And, of course the evil guy chooses the day Shrek was born. What follows then is life in an alternate universe where Rumpelstiltskin is the ruler of the kingdom and witches rule the roost! Shrek has never met Fiona and his friends Donkey and Puss don’t recognize him. But of course, there is a way to fix all things! Shrek discovers that a “true love’s kiss” is the only way to undo the contract, but can he do it by the end of the day?

This story is by far the most interesting of all. It doesn’t rely on gimmicks and pop culture references throughout like the first one. The wit and the humor is quite fast-paced. The characters are very engaging and the voices are as sharp and funny as ever. Shrek (Mike Myers) as always is the endearing slob that we all have grown to love and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is the warrior ogre-princess who is a tough nut to crack. She doesn’t wait to be rescued in this one, she rescues herself, quite a nice change from the usual !! Both of them bring immense warmth to their characters. Donkey (Eddy Murphy) is still as howlarious and cheeky as ever, and Puss (Antonio Bendares) is a pampered house cat now who is too fat to fit in his boots! He still uses his big sad eyes expression eliciting a major awwww in the theater !!

I’m not sure if the 3D animation really added to the overall experience of the movie. For the most part, I found the glasses annoying and would have preferred watching the sharper, crisper colors without the 3D effect.

After having gone horribly wrong with Shrek The Third, the makers went back to telling a simple story with its heart in the right place. And they score with this one. If this really is the final chapter of this terrific franchise, I for one am quite sad to bid goodbye to beloved ogre!