2007; Director: Chris Miller; Writers: Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, Chris Miller, Aron Warner
With the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Justin Timberlake
Paramount Home Video / Dreamworks
Available Nov. 13, List Price $29.99
There's mileage in the green ogre yet, as the nearly $800 million worldwide box office for this third installment proved. Two plots in one this time. The A story has a resentful Prince Charming (Everett, who manages to be both oily and vinegary) rallying other fairy-tale "losers," like Rumpelstiltskin, Capt. Hook and Snow White's wicked witch, to an armed revolt against the Far Far Away kingdom. In the B story, Shrek must locate a designated successor to the throne, the callow Artie (Timberlake). Then A and B meet, and justice and mercy prevail, in a fable played out against those marvelous, photo-realistic backgrounds that distinguish the Shrek franchise from other animated films.
It all goes engagingly, except when it reaches for sentiment and teaches lessons. Shrek has to be ambivalent about his imminent fatherhood, and must seem to reject Artie. Second-act learning, final-act hugging: virtually all animated features have to stop in their tracks midway through to simulate heart. That's fine for Pixar films, the natural avatars of the Disney classic tradition, but it doesn't suit the breezier DreamWorks burlesques. They're best with the sarcastic asides, the shrugging reaction shots, the not-so-inside gags about old Disney characters visual vaudeville at its fastest and funniest. Pixar cartoons aim for the child in every moviegoer. At DreamWorks, they do the fairy-tale wonder and multiple fart jokes for the kids; the rest is stuff to keep the parents from getting restless, and the animators from getting bored.
No child's attention span will be taxed by the disc's extras. They include: three proposals for scenes that didn't make it into the film; bits of a yearbook from Artie's Worcestershire High; and a short reel of computer goofs. (Yes, machines can make mistakes, but they blame the programmer.) Before the show starts, there are previews of DreamWorks' Bee Movie and Kung Fu Panda and Paramount's The Spiderwick Chronicles. One minor grouse: you're obliged to sit through these; you can't jump right to the DVD menu. And this is true for many discs. It's like getting TiVo, then discovering you still have to watch the commercials.
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