Review: Final ‘Shrek’ grimmer than usual |

Review: Final ‘Shrek’ grimmer than usual

Amy Biancolli
Houston Chronicle
Aspen, CO Colorado
DreamWorks"Shrek Forever After" wanders far from the infectious and propulsive zing that audiences have come to expect over the past nine years.

Not so very long ago, in the land of milk and franchises, there lived a mighty ogre in a sour mood. He had every reason to be happy, having made a snug home for himself with his adoring ogress-wife and their three cooing ogrettes.

Yet he felt dissatisfied. He was sure he had lost his mojo. He longed for the olden days, “when villagers were afraid of me, and I could take a mud bath in peace back when the world made sense.” As sometimes happens with domesticated animated ogres, he suffered a midlife crisis and foolishly made a deal with a short, vindictive wizard known as Rumpelstiltskin, agreeing to swap one day from his infancy for one day of feeling like a monster again – shrieking, thudding around, watching the children scatter.

But in the land of milk and franchises, nothing ever goes according to plan. Especially not for Shrek (Mike Myers), he of the saftig build and Scottish accent, whose rumbling return in the fourth and final film to bear his name- and the first in 3D – takes him to much drearier places than he’d ever been before. “Shrek Forever After” wanders far, far away from the infectious and propulsive zing that we’ve come to expect over the past nine years.

Instead, it thrusts Our Hero into a gloomy-tunes alternate universe where Rumpelstiltskin is an ogre-oppressing despot and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) won’t give Shrek the time of day. There isn’t much sweetness and light in the resultant film, and not many belly laughs, either -although Shrek does meet up with alterna-versions of his old friends Puss (now bootless and fat, but voiced with the usual grandiloquence by Antonio Banderas) and Donkey (still Eddie Murphy, still belting out mediocre pop songs).

This being DreamWorks, the computer animation is dynamic and imaginative, no less so for being cast in duskier hues. But the plot cuts closer to dystopian sci-fi than buoyant family cartoon, and Shrek is dragging around some awfully heavy psychological baggage for an ogre. “I didn’t know what I had until it was gone,” he mewls to Donkey, his existential crisis nicked whole from “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Rumpelstiltskin, on the other hand, is a joy to behold, a totalitarian psychoneurotic gnome for the ages. Voiced by Walt Dohrn like Jason Lee on helium, he sports the shoes of Aladdin and the head of an ignited road flare. Watching anyone on a quest for world domination is always a swell time at the multiplex, and this guy’s no exception; unfortunately for Shrek, he eats the movie. I’m sorry, but the ogre uprising just can’t compete.

From the start, the “Shreks” have had a deconstructive agenda: In mashing together bits of fables and spitting them out as humor, they’ve applied a self-aware and thoroughly modern irony to age-old folktales that plumb the human psyche’s darkest urges. They’re Grimm by definition. But this one is grimmer than usual.