“Always leave ’em wanting more.” That is one of the first rules of show business. That doesn’t happen in the age of sequels. Successful movies are like cows: Milk them ’til they’re dry.
Take “Shrek Forever After,” the fourth movie in the franchise. It’s in 3-D, but it’s the last gasp of a once-fun movie series.
In this chapter, Shrek (Mike Myers) is living the life of a husband and father. He and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) have three children. Gone are the days of mud baths, strange noises from his body and scared villagers. Shrek is sad and wishes he could have his old life back.
Enter Rumpelstiltskin. He offers deals to people providing something they long for in exchange for something given back. He also has it in for Shrek over a previous incident involving Fiona.
Rumpelstiltskin tells Shrek he can give him a day in which things will be back the way they were before. But to get a day, Shrek has to give a day. Shrek signs and finds himself in a world where he was never even born.
He is not married to Fiona. She is a warrior princess fighting against the current ruler of Far, Far Away. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) does not know Shrek. Puss N Boots (Antonio Banderas) is just a fat cat with no motivation. And the ruler of the kingdom? Rumpelstiltskin.
The movie wants to play out like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” To the viewers’ regret, it is nowhere near the greatness of that movie.
“Shrek Forever After” lacks what the first Shrek had: a subversive tone. The first movie turned the fairy tale paradigm on its head; we saw the old conventions of fairy tales in a new light.
The current movie trades on the old conventions with no new offerings, no new insights. It’s just tired and not really that fun.
The subject matter of this one is too morose for the genre. The original movie was dark, but there was a light that shone through the darkness; it brought a smile to the face.
Here is an old story of a father and husband who is tired of all the demands of parenthood. When a movie’s done well, you care about what happens to the characters on the screen. Here, even given Shrek’s history and back story, you don’t really care what happens to him. You know that all will work out in the end, but you just don’t care.
And there’s no good reason for the movie to be in 3-D. It’s another example of making a movie in 3-D as a means of plucking more money from the pockets of the movie-going public without giving much in return.
This is said to be the last chapter of the franchise. Here’s hoping that’s true.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language.
Director: Mike Mitchell
Writers: Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke
Cast: Mike Myers: Shrek; Cameron Diaz: Fiona; Eddie Murphy: Donkey; Antonio Banderas: Puss N Boots; Rumpelstiltskin: Walter Dohrn; Julie Andrews: Queen; John Cleese: King.
The movie’s Web site is here.