In a world filled with princes, princesses and dragons, Shrek is an anomaly among the fairytale creatures. Though normally feared, the ogre discovers his swamp overrun by all of the classic creatures who are trying to escape the grasp of the evil Lord Farquaad. To resolve the problem, he discovers he can save a princess locked away in a castle far away from a dragon and deliver her to Farquaad to end his troubles. After getting stuck with a talking donkey, he heads off to the tower, battles the dragon and saves the princess. Fiona is grateful but confused by the “knight” and “noble steed” who saved her. She agrees to be led back to Farquaad’s castle and to meet her future king. Along the way, Shrek and Fiona start to feel different about each other, creating some confusing feelings. Though Shrek knows the necessary take to save his swamp, he has to decide what he values more, peace and quiet or his new feelings for Princess Fiona.
After their marriage and honeymoon, Shrek and Fiona receive notice for their presence with Fiona’s parents. Traveling to the land of Far Far Away, Shrek finds himself to be a fish out of water. The villagers are frightened by the transformation of their princess and the ogre that now accompanies her. The King and Queen are certainly concerned about her new relationship but the King seems completely determined to get rid of this new monster. With the help of the Fairy Godmother, they hatch a plan, using Prince Charming who failed to save Fiona, to eliminate Shrek from Fiona’s life forever. Initially attacked by the ogre killer, Puss in Boots, Shrek and Donkey are forced to find their way back to Far Far Away and get tangled up in magic spells that cause Shrek to become the human he believes Fiona wants and Donkey to become a true stallion. With Prince Charming in the way, Shrek must find his way back into Fiona’s heart.
As the happy couple have finally gotten the chance to settle into their marriage, Shrek and Fiona learn that the King has fallen ill. Attending to him while he passes, Shrek is given a new quest, to find the heir to the throne (Arthur aka Artie). While off to find the prince and return him to the throne, Prince Charming is struggling with the failure to win Fiona and gain his rule of the land. Devising a plan with the outcasts at the Poison Apple Bar, Charming convinces the villains and other creatures that they deserve respect and need to overthrow the kingdom. After taking over Far Far Away, he continues his pursuit of Shrek to enact his revenge. Meanwhile, though Shrek is successful in bringing Artie back from the Worcestershire Academy and taking him to Merlin’s island, he cannot seem to convince Artie to take on the responsibilities of the King. When Captain Hook is able to subdue Shrek, it is up to Fiona and the other princesses to rescue Shrek and his friends.
Shrek and Fiona have taken that next stage of life: parenthood. With three little ogres, the family has gotten into a groove, but Shrek believes there is something missing. His kid’s birthday party brings a number of frustrations to the surface for the confused ogre and causes him to wish he could go back to the good old days. While rummaging through the trash, Rumpelstiltskin overhears the desperate ogre and sees a chance to make a move. Feeling the ogre served as a reason for his shortcomings, he tricks Shrek into giving up a single day in his life to experience his past once more. When the day happens to be the day of his birth, Shrek only has 24 hours to find allies and save himself from fading into nothingness. The task is harder than it may seem, as Donkey does not recognize him, Fiona is now the leader of the ogre army and Rumpelstiltskin is the ruler of the land with his assortment of stylish wigs.
Starring: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Fiona), John Lithgow (Lord Farquaad), Vincent Cassel (Monsieur Hood), Chris Miller (Geppetto/Magic Mirror), Cody Cameron (Pinocchio/Three Pigs), Conrad Vernon (Gingerbread Man), Julie Andrews (Queen), John Cleese (King), Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), Rupert Everett (Prince Charming), Jennifer Saunders (Fairy Godmother), Aron Warner (Wolf), Christopher Knights (Three Mice), Justin Timberlake (Artie), Eric Idle (Merlin), Susanne Blakeslee (Evil Queen), John Krasinski (Lancelot), Lrry King (Doris), Ian McShane (Captain Hook), Cheri Oteri (Sleeping Beauty), Regis Philbin (Mabel), Amy Poehler (Snow White), Maya Rudolph (Rapunzel), Amy Sedaris (Cinderella), Jon Hamm (Brogan), Walt Dorhn (Rumplestiltskin), Jane Lynch (Gretched), Craig Robinson (Cookie), Lake Bell (Patrol Witch), Kathy Griffin (Dancing Witch)
Each of these films contains a rather well known cast of vocal talents. Spanning the entire series are the voices of Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Pinocchio, the Three Blind Mice, the Three Little Pigs, Gingerbread Man and Wolf. Mike Myers is certainly the most recognizable voice, as his presentation of Shrek is fairly similar to many of his voices from Saturday Night Live. As Fiona, Cameron Diaz gives a sassiness and edge to the princess turned ogre. Eddie Murphy adds his craziness and excellent randomness to the role of the spastic Donkey. Cody Cameron, Christopher Knights, Conrad Vernon and Aron Warner round out the group of regulars and sidekicks that appear in each of the films. The first movie also features John Lithgow as Lord Farquaad, giving a sense of sophistication to counter his odd stature. The second film added a set of memorable characters that expand the scope of fairytales. The King and Queen, played by John Cleese and Julie Andrews, provide a familiar sense of class with a touch of normalcy in a set of films that are all about outrageous changes to classic stories. Antonio Banderas dives into this world as Puss in Boats, merging his past as Zorro into a cartoon cat. Prince Charming, played by Rupert Everett, definitely overplays the pretty-boy persona to make Charming a little less so. Jennifer Saunders, who may not be as well known, certainly made a name for herself as the Fairy Godmother. Joining his former Monty Python co-star in the third film, Eric Idle adds his voice as the oddball Merlin. Justin Timberlake was making a bigger name for himself in the movie world and used his role as Artie to continue displaying his range. The final film added one significant character, Rumpelstiltskin, played by Walt Dohrn. Though unknown as an actor, he certainly animates the classic mischief maker.
Each of the films creates their own sense of charm but the series as a whole clearly started strong with the first two films and took a downward turn as it continued. Shrek and Shrek 2 were directed by Andrew Adamson. Each of the films gives life to a new sense of storytelling with classic characters merged together in one adventure. While many of the assumptions about ogres, villains and heroes are broken through a number of humorous alterations, all of the changes make for a great series of comedic moments. In the first film, one of the best moments is one of the least necessary to the movement of the story. When Shrek and Donkey first walk into Duloc, the welcome post sings them a song of reminders to enjoy their stay. It was definitely catchy and helped to convince viewers of the value of the film. Additionally, Gingy, aka Gingerbread Man, has one of the best lines of the film, “not the buttons. Not the gumdrop buttons.” For the second film, Adamson is able to recapture the magic of the first and still find some new ways to keep it fresh. The addition of Puss was definitely a positive as he helps to give Donkey a partner to bounce jokes off of. The best joke for adults also appears in this film with the people running from one “Farbucks” to another “Farbucks” across the street (which is a direct reference to a Lewis Black joke).
Shrek the Third appeared to be an attempt to make the series into a trilogy, but the story failed to live up to the success of the first two. While the series also saw its first director team without Adamson, Chris Miller and Raman Hui were brought in to hopefully extend the story to the next stage of life. The story is about the search for the new king and the vengeance of a bitter villain, but the background story is about Shrek’s fears of becoming a father and taking on too much responsibility. While Charming was okay as a repeat villain, it felt like a lot of the jokes were just overly repetitive from the previous films. The emphasis of the bickering between Puss and Donkey also got tired very quickly. The fourth film was just the final straw. Similar to the third film, Mike Mitchell was trying to show Shrek feeling overwhelmed living a life beyond his expectations. Yet again, there are new jokes but they feel too much like the tired old bits. Rumpelstiltskin came off as a goofy version of the Fairy Godmother and the gimmick of the wigs just seemed a little out of place.
As a full series, the Shrek universe is certainly an intriguing and entertaining experience. The first two films were clearly where the series should have stopped but the third and fourth movies were made and just did not live up to the previous marks.
Shrek – Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5
Shrek 2 – Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5
Shrek the Third – Dan’s Rating: 2.5/5
Shrek Forever After – Dan’s Rating: 2.0/5