Shrek The Third
Lumbering, ornery ogres have never had it so good. Fated to be the bad guys in almost every tale, they could only dream of hero status until Shrek came along giving audiences a dose of the unexpected. Lampooning tired stereotypes, Hollywood movies and conventional fairytales, this odorous monster from the swamp fell in love with a cursed princess who chose to remain an ogre herself.
Since then, Shrek (voice by Mike Myer) has made the trek to the kingdom of Far, Far Away. He's met his new bride's regal parents (voices by John Cleese and Julie Andrews) and been presented in the royal court. Now all the big, green ogre wants to do is take his wife Fiona (voice by Cameron Diaz) back to the bog where they can live in peace among the fungus and swamp rats.
That ambition, however, threatens to vanish when King Harold croaks. As heirs-apparent, Shrek and Fiona are next in line to be the new sovereigns unless the unhappy ogre can find Fiona's cousin Artie (voice by Justin Timberlake) and convince him to take the throne. Traveling to the land of Worcestershire with his sidekicks, Donkey (voice by Eddie Murphy) and Puss-In-Boots (voice by Antonio Banderas), Shrek plucks the reluctant, tormented teenager out of high school and packs him back to the palace. But in the meantime, an affronted and overconfident Prince Charming (voice by Rupert Everett) has rallied an army of fairytale villains to orchestrate an attack on the castle and install him as the new ruler of Far, Far Away.
While still packing it's share of jokes and parodies (like the lingering, drawn-out, protracted death scene of the king), the script's pacing lacks the kind of sparkle and snap audiences have come to expect from the crabby swamp dweller and his tag-a-longs. Whether it's Shrek's concern over impending parenthood or Donkey's preoccupation with his kids, these two wisecracking guys appear to be settling into the mid-life doldrums. Although adults may relate to the characters' concerns, there is less time for punch lines aimed at kids.
Exposing a different side of Shrek (only brief buttock nudity is seen), the movie sidesteps some of the sexual innuendos played out in previous films, however it depicts a group of high school students stumbling out of a smoke-filled chariot where they've been sharing a joint between classes. A lit cigarette in an ashtray and references to being high on drugs are also shown. (Considering the MPAA's recent attack on smoking in PG-13 movies, this appears entirely out of place in a PG film.) Rough swordplay and brief hand-to-hand fighting occur as well when the villains attack the castle. And after being captured by soldiers, Shrek is chained up and prepped to be run through by the nasty Prince Charming in front of the whole kingdom.
Reshuffling the level of content concerns found in earlier Shrek flicks, this third installment waffles between the cliche three strikes you're out (shortage of jokes and underplayed use of Murphy's talent) and third time's the charm (a satchel full of life lessons about accepting oneself and embracing new challenges).