Sunday, May 20, 2007

"Shrek the Third" Impressions

*Warning!! Contains some plot points which may or may not be considered spoilers, depending on how much you do or do not want to know heading into the film. Therefore, you may or may not be interested in reading or not reading this depending on what you feel or are not feeling this day or maybe the next*

I should preface this by stating that this is not to be considered a review. While I may know enough to give educated, qualitative feedback on movies, the idea of writing a review brings with it certain responsibilities, namely objectivity, which I don't particularly care to employ. Therefore, I like to consider these "impressions," and as the word implies, most of this is unabashedly subjective.

I will start off by saying that Shrek the Third was an enjoyable theater experience. There were lovable, familiar characters, keen as well as over the top humor, moments (albeit brief) of honest emotional resonance, and plenty of eye candy to go a long way. The animation is nothing short of incredible this time around-- we're nearing the point where CGI human beings are looking a whole lot like their real-life counterparts, but where the animation really shines is in the settings and the fantastical creatures/characters.

If the devil is in the details, then the animators have found a way to channel Satan. Settings have life-like textures and quality. The stones in a castle wall aren't just a plain wash - you can actually see the age, water damage, and wear and tear. Cannons have dimples and crevices. The Gingerbread Man's closeups draw memories of Christmas past. A perfect example is in looking at those hideous donkey/dragon children which have been all over the previews. To see them in the film, to notice the mixture of scales and hair, how some eyes are lazy and different colors-it's the details that make them hideously adorable, and thus, pretty darn hilarious.

The humor is the same sarcastic, social-commentating humor that we should be used to from this series, but in an improvement over the second film, there are a lot of jokes that are personal to the characters themselves. Let's just say that in one scene, the Gingerbread Man's life flashes before his eyes, moments before Pinocchio words his answers in long winded jarble just to avoid telling lies. Brilliant.

There are periods in the second act where the laughs die down, as could be expected, but when that happens, it becomes apparent that the emotional connection that has carried other animated films, such as Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo or Monster's Inc., is just not there. It causes the story to drag, and it's disappointing. The problem here is a writing one, unfortunately, and one that could have been avoided simply by making the stakes heightened and more clear. **SPOILER?*** In the beginning of the film the Frog King informs Shrek that he is to be the next heir of Far Far Away, but naturally Shrek wants to go back to the swamp, and so the King tells him who the next in line would then be. This is a problem because a). while Shrek doesn't want to be king, it's not established why he can't be. Being an Ogre is awkward, but he'll deal if he has to. Because of this, if he can't find the next in line or convince him to take the throne, it's not the biggest of deals.

The "b" problem is that Fiona doesn't have too much to do until the end of the film, when everyone has to band together to save everyone's favorite green ogre (which is also a problem because Shrek literally does nothing but wait to be saved).

This and few other passive choices make the film dependent on the humor. I can confidently say that if you found the jokes and situations of the first two films to be funny, then you won't be disappointed. However, there is little substance underneath the superficial plot and jokes, so if you haven't enjoyed Shrek 1 or 2, this is not the film on which to go spend 11 dollars.

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