First Night Flicks: Shrek Forever After

Shrek Forever After (2010)

Directed by: Mike Mitchell
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Walt Dohrn
Rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language.

What if you were never born? How would the world around you be different? How would your non-existence affect the people you know? Shrek Forever After is certainly not the first film to ask these questions. In fact most films that ask these questions usually find the same answers. It’s the journey to find those answers that determines whether the film has succeeded.

In this, the fourth, installment of the Shrek franchise, Shrek (Meyers) is aggravated by the routine of daily family life and wishes he had one more day to truly be an ogre. His former sanctuary, his swamp, has become a tourist attraction, and it seems he can never have a moment’s peace. The pressure reaches a boiling point at the triplets’ first birthday party and Shrek and Fiona (Diaz) have a fight that ends with Shrek storming off. The fight itself is played, not as a joke, but feels true to the characters and, oddly, to real life. Unbeknownst to Shrek, their argument has been overheard by Rumpelstiltskin (Dohrn), who harbors a strong resentment for the ogre that is explained in the film’s first few minutes.

Shrek’s wish is granted once he agrees to give a day to get one day as a feared ogre. He, however, does not read the fine print, and Rumpelstiltskin decides which day from Shrek’s past is forfeit to pay the contract. He is transported to an alternate version of his world where no one in his life knows him. This works for many different reasons. The main reason is not that the other characters we have come to know and love are still there, but that they are still, essentially, themselves. Donkey (Murphy) still has that pure innocence even though he initially fears Shrek this time around. However, the circumstances of their meeting are vastly different as well, and he eventually comes around, as we know he must. Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas) is also back, albeit somewhat changed.

The character of Princess Fiona, however, is perhaps the most wonderfully and richly explored in this new film. When we first met her, she was an idealistic princess fantasizing about being rescued by her true love. She had accepted herself as an ogre because true love told her that she had to. This Princess Fiona, however, is different. Giving up on true love, and rescue, she escapes her tower prison and chooses a side. She is stronger, more independent and more world-weary for it, but she is still the same Fiona. Since the film takes the time to establish this beyond the shadow of a doubt, she is, perhaps, even more Fiona that she ever was before. This is who Fiona would become if left completely to her own devices. It fulfills the first film’s broken promise of escaping the princess stereotype.

In attempting to answer one question, Shrek Forever After answers another: What if someone made a Shrek movie that cared less about being filled with snarky pop culture references and more about telling a good story? If this is, as advertised, the final chapter for Shrek and company, they truly saved the best for last.

Shrek Forever After teaches children some of life’s most valuable lessons: never believe a deal that’s too good to be true, and ALWAYS read the fine print. Oh, and don’t trust someone whose hair is taller than he is.