With Dreamworks Animation emerging as the only real competition to Pixar in the animation film market, it made sense for them to make as much money from recognisable characters as possible. It is for this reason only that the follow-up to Shrek the Third, the rather neatly titled Shrek Forever After. Announced as the final instalment in the franchise (Puss in Boots filling the gap), Shrek Forever After reunites all the cast regulars and was a box office hit, taking $750m from a budget of $165m.
Shrek (Mike Myers) is struggling to juggle the responsibilities of being a father to his children and husband to his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz). On one particularly bad day he goes for a walk to clear his head and meets Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) who offers him a day of being single in exchange for just one day from Shrek’s early life. Too tempted to refuse, he accepts unaware that the day he’ll lose is his birthday, allowing Rumplestiltskin to change the course of history and become ruler of the kingdom. Reuniting his old friends Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) he sets out to find Fiona and find a way to change history before he disappears for good.
After the critical mauling received by Shrek the Third, Dreamworks were careful not to annoy critics in the lead-up to release. They were keen to tell everyone that this was the final instalment to the franchise. The key to the success of Shrek Forever After is the ˜back to basics’ methodology.
A satirical take on It’s a Wonderful Life, the narrative of Shrek Forever After allows for all the major characters to go through the process of meeting each other, but with no baggage. It’s played for laughs and it’s a joke that the audience are in on. More importantly, unlike Shrek the Third, it works and is genuinely funny. The filmmakers have brought back the wry sense of fun and wit of the first two instalments to really send Shrek out with a bang.
Funnier, smarter, better paced and wittier than it’s immediate predecessor, Shrek Forever After almost reaches the heady heights of the original and is a very solid goodbye to a character who has become iconic of the era. It’s a shame then that the spin-off prequel, Puss in Boots dropped the ball again.