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Shrek Forever After
Genre Animation
Year: 2010

The world would seem a little out-of-place without that lovable, jolly green ogre with the Scottish accent and his jabbering doggedly companion, Donkey. It's sad to say goodbye to the big green fella, but we'll always have his happy-go-lucky adventures. Shrek Forever After concludes the Shrek franchise in 3D, drawing to a close the last chapter of the tongue-in-cheek fairy tale saga. It's been fun, but all good things have to come to an end.

Shrek Forever After is an improvement on Shrek the Third, which put the novelty and energy of the series in doubt. This fourth installment seems a bit tired and unnecessary, but the good news is that Dreamworks have managed to salvage any damage done by the crass and mixed bag that was Shrek the Third. Shrek Forever After is a sequel and the film-makers have tried to instill a fresh burst of energy to the last chapter with a take on that magical family classic It's A Wonderful Life.

Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and Puss-in-Boots voice talents - Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and Antonnio Banderas - have all made a return with Walt Dohrm voicing Rumpelstiltskin. The chemistry is still there between the characters, although it's almost a little too comfortable and Shrek Forever After leans more heavily on Myers with Shrek in almost every scene. The other voice talents absorb a team supporting role as Shrek is bandied from one character to the next. The comedy is slightly subdued by the tone in this episode with the funniest bits coming from Walt Dohrm's take on Rumpelstiltskin and Banderas as Puss-in-Boots in his new body.

Most fairy tales end with a wedding, but Shrek Forever After begins with babies and parenthood sinking in. Shrek's a father and his new responsibilities are starting to take their toll. No more uninterrupted wallowing in the mud bath or me-time. The big green guy also misses his bachelor days when he could scare anyone at will. Meanwhile, Rumplestiltskin is scheming to overthrow the King and take control of Far Far Away... A "chance" encounter, a couple of "eye-tinis" and a scrawl of magic ink later, and Shrek has signed over a day of his life in exchange to be ogre-for-a-day, unwittingly enabling Rumpelstiltskin to rewrite history and rule supreme over a much darker fairy tale kingdom.

Shrek Forever After has a much darker, melancholic tone than the earlier trilogy of more lighthearted escapades. The stakes have been raised with Shrek fighting for his wife as well as his life and there's much less to laugh about as Shrek goes head-to-head with the evil little Mr. Stiltskin and his witches. The fourth installment further distances itself from the series with 3D technology, giving the environment more depth. We're given a chance to see how things would've been without Shrek in a very dreary kingdom, in which Shrek is an outsider, a stranger to his fairy tale friends.

The attempt to mimic It's A Wonderful Life was a good concept platform to create another adventure without making a straight prequel, however the references and familiarity with the original Shrek make things seem a little tired and unnecessary. Shrek Forever After isn't as feel-good as its previous chapters and this is also reflected in the selection of music. "I'm A Believer" gets another run, but the other tracks are subdued and don't embody the same happy feeling that music from the first three chapters enthused.

There are also inconsistencies in the world of Far, Far Away... with an ogre empire appearing after it was made to seem that Shrek was the only ogre in town. The other fairy tale creatures were unique with one Pinocchio, Three Little Pigs etc. and this convenient arrangement was just a little jarring with a strange parallel to The Gummi Bears. Then Shrek Forever After has tried to become more pure with very few pop culture references. Apart from a Deliverance banjo duel riff, there are very few links compared with Shrek, Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third. The gross out gags of Shrek the Third have been toned down and the sequel occupies itself with simply presenting a story instead of trying to be clever with Matrix inspired fights and a Knights TV show instead of Cops.

This Shrek movie is darker and uses 3D quite sparingly. The immersion into a 3D environment has been handled well, without making the animation too gimmicky. The message about gratitude is good and it's great to see a franchise like Shrek opting for depth instead of superficial emotion. However, the movies have become synonymous with feel good fun and to make such a drastic tonal shift for the closing chapter was always going to be risky. However, Shrek Forever After and the Shrek franchise can leave the silver screen with their heads held high. The end result is better than Part 3 and manages to bridge the new 3D divide, but doesn't seem to add much more to the Shrek series.

Shrek Forever After is very competent, smart at times and full of surprises with echoes from previous chapters. One can even applaud the film-makers for defying the urge to include easy pop culture references and gross-out gags and going for a purist take on the kingdom of Far Far Away, employing 3D technology in a subtle way. However, the heart of Shrek has been plucked out with the dramatic, darker tonal shift with melancholy evoking the darker spectrum of emotion, instead of keeping proceedings as superficial, fun and light-hearted as they've always been. Shrek Forever After is entertaining and worth the watch, but must be set apart from the previous adventures for maximum enjoyment.

The bottom line: Melancholic.





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