When we last left Shrek (Michael Myers), he had overcome the objections of his father-in-law, King Harold (John Cleese) to win a place in the heart of his true love, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz). In the process, he also foiled the plans of the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) and her son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett). In this latest installment, “Shrek the Third,” the big green guy is dealing with family issues.
Life seems grand in Far, Far Away, but soon a dark shadow falls over the kingdom. The King is dying and wants Shrek to succeed him as king, but the ogre has other ideas. When he discovers there is another heir, Artie (Justin Timberlake), he and his traveling crew, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) beat a hasty retreat to bring him back as the new king.
Before he departs, Shrek finds out that Fiona is pregnant. Not sure that he will make a good father; he humorously agonizes over his future parental responsibilities. Soon, Shrek will discover that his impending fatherhood is the least of his issues; Charming has organized all of the fairy tale villains and is set to attack Far, Far Away. If successful, he will install himself as king.
Once Shrek locates Artie, he is quite surprised that the future king is a high school loser. Even the nerds harass poor Artie, whose self-esteem is non-existent. Shrek and friends must help him find his inner-strength to rule the kingdom. Along the way, the crew meets “retired” wizard Merlin (Eric Idle), who gives them a “magical assist,” while fighting various villains to save the kingdom. All in a short day’s work!
The first two films in the series featured engaging characters and wonderful sight gags (who can forget the “Rodeo Drive”-type street in Far, Far Away?). While the first two were uproarious sendoffs with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, this film overall feels just amusing. The problem is that many of the things that were humorous in the earlier films are established, and the film has few little surprises.
Word on the street is that Puss in Boots will get his own movie and may not be a part of future Shrek stories. That would be a shame, because Shrek gets by with more than just a little help from his friends; Donkey and Puss in Boots are the comic engine of Gang Green, while Shrek serves as the story’s straight man. This film entertains but falls short on the wit and laughter of the earlier installments. Fortunately, there’s still enough here to make it an enjoyable experience while leaving you green with comic envy.