Shrek the Third
Shrek 2's remarkable success--$916 million worldwide--practically assured that DreamWorks would turn out a third installment in the heartwarming chronicles of a flatulent ogre and his cadre of fairy tale friends. Critics, however, appreciated Shrek 2--not to mention the original Shrek-- as well as audiences, which makes this tired and uninspired movie so unexpected. Shrek the Third does deliver laughs, but it utterly fails to live up to the quality of its predecessors.
It all starts with the death of Frog-King Harold of Far Far Away (John Cleese), who bequeaths his kingdom to loutish son-in-law Shrek (Mike Meyers). Shrek has no interest in a crown and just wants to get back to his mucky swamp home. His wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), wants the same, but under one condition--her biological clock is ticking, and she wants to start popping out baby ogres. Shrek, convinced he'll be a lousy father and maybe even eat his kids--like his father once tried to do to him--is understandably apprehensive.
To escape his responsibilities, Shrek sets out with his trusty companions Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas) to track down the only other heir--a high-school student named Artie Pendragon (Justin Timberlake), whom you might know better as the once and future King Arthur. Except Artie is nothing but the whelp cool kids like Lancelot pick on. That's why the prospect of becoming a king is so appealing to Artie at first, because he can get back at all those who made fun of him, but quickly enough he comes to the realization that he doesn't have what it takes to rule a kingdom and, like Shrek, wants out of his duties.
If this wasn't story enough, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) is back and, in Shrek's absence, stages a boring coup d'état backed by an alliance of fairy tale villains. The fairy tale princesses, including Fiona, Snow White, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty, turn out to be all that stands in his way. Unfortunately, the princess gimmick is almost entirely lifted from Bill Willingham's award-winning Vertigo comic-book series Fables and doesn't do it nearly as well. That tends to be the problem with all of Shrek the Third. It fails to do anything as well as its influences, including the first two Shreks.