Third time’s a charm
Vail, CO, Colorado
Any critic who hasn’t said nice things about “Shrek the Third” obviously has no room in his or her humor vault for rushed and rash hilarity.
There’s something to be said for brevity being the soul of wit. Take for example, a scene of Snow White and other fairy tale beauties preparing to be something other than damsels in distress, getting ready to break out of prison walls with ninja-like head butts and thrash villains with the help of their suddenly sinister song birds and squirrels. It’s amusing enough on its own, but when Snow White pulls up her sleeve revealing a heart-shaped tattoo with Dopey in the middle and Donkey and Puss N Boots swap bodies, prompting Puss N Hooves to get into a low horsey hiss when he’s angry … well, it might be crude and silly to more sophisticated audiences, but some of us found it pretty clever. The most laugh-out-loud sparkles of brilliance are just that, sparkles. They flash by quickly, but you’re so enraptured enough by the bouncy, energetic duration of the film, the brilliant blinks never go unnoticed.
“Shrek the Third” begins with the death of Fiona’s father, who, you may recall, reverted back to his previous existence as a frog at the end of “Shrek 2.” Gasping melodramatically, the frog tells Shrek that he is to become the next king of Far, Far Away. Then he rasps, wheezes and goes cross-eyed for the last time. Shrek isn’t up for ruling the land, so sets out to find Arthur, a teenage nephew of the late frog’s … er king’s, to take his place as heir to the throne.
Where should he find Arthur but at your run-of-the-mill medieval high school, where poor Arthur, despite his prince-like good looks (you know … for a cartoon), is something of a laughing stock. He’s the kid that gets shoved into lockers and gets his face smeared into chamber pots. This does nothing to deter Shrek from sweeping him up and dragging him back to the kingdom, telling the squeaky voiced Arthur that it’s going to be his to run.
The medieval high school leaves out none of the stereotypes that we all know and remember from that phase of life … the valley girls smacking their rgum, the bullying jocks who, in this case, throttle Arthur in jousting tournaments and then chuckle meanly in his face, the nerdy kids playing chess … no cliche is left unturned.
For a second, Arthur likes the idea of getting revenge on those who bullied him, squelching their dreams once he’s king. But it’s not long before he begins to feel ” like Shrek ” inadequate for the job.
As the two are fighting over who is less fit to be king, evil Prince Charming is staking his claim on the castle and on the land. All of the favorite supporting characters of the previous two Shreks make memorable appearances in “The Third.” The manly evil stepsisters show some leg and cleavage, Donkey and the dragon have given birth to little flying mules and the Gingerbread Man lapses into lollipop dreams.
On top of it all, the animation is better than ever. Sequels have a history of growing mundane and formulaic … “Shrek the Third” is an exception. The happily ever isn’t entirely unpredictable, but the quirky, magical (but not yellow brick) road to get there is definitely worth the trip at least once.