Published May 20, 2010You will recall that 2001's Shrek featured a scene in which Donkey, the hoofed, wisecracking sidekick of our ogre hero, professed his love for waffles in that distinctive Eddie Murphy twang that makes the first syllable sound like a whip crack.
Nine years later, after a weary world has been assaulted non-stop by this sound bite in sequels, stage plays, clip reels, trailers, computer games, posters and bad open mic comedy routines, we arrive at Shrek Forever After, wherein Donkey smells something delicious in the forest and, sure enough, finds a big plate of "wAAAAFFles!" I nearly cried. Oh please, not again. How many laughs can a man be expected to derive from Eddie Murphy saying, "wAAAAFFles!" over and over again?
Perhaps sensing the Shrek saga reached its logical conclusion long before this ostensible "final chapter," the folks at DreamWorks Animation haven't even bothered to move the story forward. Like a sitcom that's already jumped the shark, Shrek Forever After rehashes the old It's a Wonderful Life gimmick of an alternate universe where Shrek was never born when our bored, domesticated hero signs an unwise deal with the sinister Rumpelstiltskin that will allow him to return to his old life for one more day. Alas, there are loopholes to the agreement that lead to Rumpelstiltskin becoming king and Shrek ceasing to exist at the 24-hour mark.
How strange to remember that the first Shrek was once so fresh. In 2001, there was real novelty to its post-modern take on Disney fairytales. Now, when the Pied Piper shows up in Shrek Forever After, we know with a sense of acute awareness that borders on dread that he will play a contemporary pop song. When Shrek laments that he signed something he shouldn't have and Donkey replies, "Oh, you bought one of them time-shares?" we can almost hear the writers punching the "insert joke for the parents" button. This series has become as predictable and cynically calculated as the Disney-fied culture it originally spoofed.
Shrek Forever After reaches a certain basic level of competence: the animation is fine and there are scattered chuckles about (I liked how a bloated, "retired" Puss-in-Boots refuses to accept that he's grown soft). If the idea of spending yet another 90 minutes with Shrek, Donkey, Fiona and the other residents of Far Far Away appeals to you, rest assured that these characters will do everything you expect.
Perhaps you will also still laugh at the anachronistic juxtaposition of a modern pop song in a fairy tale setting. If so, have fun, but please, please don't call me if there's a Shrek 5. I can only eat so many "wAAAAFFles!" before I get a stomachache. (Paramount)