If you’ve got an everyday kind of name, you’ve probably seen a film where the main character has the same name as you. There are probably other movie Fionas out there, but this was the first one I ever saw, and everyone started calling me “Princess Fiona” as soon as the film came out. The Fiona in this film is an ogre. An ogre! I’m not even that green. Since then, my enthusiasm for the Shrek films has waned, as it became an advertising blitzkrieg and spawned three sequels. However, thanks to the lovely people at OPI, who have released a new lacquer range to tie in with Shrek (yes, including two ogre-greens), I scored two free tickets to a preview screening of Shrek Forever After: The Final Chapter in 3D and went along to see it on the weekend.
Shrek himself shares a fair few things in common with Messrs. Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. All three are family men, with devoted wives and three children of varying lovability, and each seem to spend all of their screen time doing something unbelievably stupid that destroys their family, and then trying to remedy the situation. In this, Shrek’s fourth existential crisis, he is tiring of the repetition of life; waking up to the noise of his three kids, burping (and farting, this is a kids’ movie after all) and feeding them, doing chores, being part of a tour coach’s route, and his loud, always visiting friends, Donkey (and family) and Puss in Boots. He doesn’t have a job, everyone loves him; it doesn’t really sound that traumatic, does it? Apparently it is. Shrek yearns for his old life back, where everyone was terrified of him instead of wanting to be his friend, and he didn’t have any responsibilities. If only it were possible.
But it’s a movie set in a magical universe, so of course it is! Cue teeny bewigged bad guy Rumpelstiltskin, a man who loves to strike a deal. He’s mad at Shrek, whose timing in regards to saving Fiona cost Rumpel a sweet deal with the King and Queen, who were about to sign a deal with him releasing Fiona in exchange for their kingdom. Now down and out, Rumpel sees Shrek upset at his life, and offers him a deal: one day of freedom from responsibilities, in exchange for one “random” day out of Shrek’s life. Because he is dense and we need the plot to move along, Shrek signs the deal, and bam! He is transported into an alternate universe, where he isn’t a family man, just a free ogre able to terrify at will. Sounds great, and it’s fun for a while but there’s a catch. With the kingdom now signed over to Rumpel, life isn’t all fun and games for the inhabitants, ogres are even more victimised than before, Fiona—tough, powerful and now in charge of the ogres—doesn’t know or love him, and, worse still, Shrek has only a day to find a way out of his contract or lose everything—not just his cherished family, but also his life. Because the day Rumpelstiltskin took was a very, very important one.
I wasn’t expecting much—I’d enjoyed the first movie, but not been enthusiastic about the second two, not purposely watching them but kind of absorbing them by zeitgeist osmosis/Saturday evening channel-flicking. Still, I’ll never pass up a free movie and the opportunity for popcorn, and was utterly pleased to find the whole movie was great fun. The characters were all a blast, from Rumpelstiltskin’s devilish grin and mood-appropriate wiggery (“Get me my angry wig!”) to alternate-universe Puss in Boots (now a tad overfed) and Donkey (much the same, though less annoying than previously). While Rumpel’s cohorts—the Oz-like green witches—are a bit colourless, everyone else is great, the voice actors (from old hats Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas and Eddie Murphy to newish hats Walt Dohrn, Jon Hamm and Jane Lynch) doing a brilliant job at injecting the animations with life. It’s funny and entertaining, and even quite emotional—I got something in my eye at the end but, um, it definitely wasn’t tears; that would make the 3D blurry, after all. Similar to the others, there’s a lot of contemporary music in there, and singing, with bounty hunter Pied Piper laying down some Beastie Boys and so on with his flute and making for some unrestrained dancing.
Once you forgive Shrek for being completely daft, and decide not to think too hard about the time-travel aspects of the plot, Shrek Forever After makes for a pretty agreeable outing. The 3D is good, not always painfully obvious, and not that necessary if you don’t want to fork out the ridiculous excess prices for them and the special glasses (of which we now have six pairs around the house.) Good for kids who want to see mud baths, roaring ogres, and fights on broomsticks; good for parents who would secretly crave any way to get their old lives back (hint: it won’t go well.)
Because I am a martyr to the cause, I stayed until the end of the credits. Now you don’t have to—there’s no final animation. (Also, when it takes three songs to finish the credits, you know they are getting far too long.)
Shrek Forever After is in cinemas on June 17.