Monday, May 24, 2010

Sequels Happen

Sequels Happen, and Beget “Shrek Forever After”

When a movie is successful, sequels happen.
The producers swear “Shrek Forever After,” the fourth in the hugely popular series, is the final chapter.
I wouldn’t bet good money on it.
When last we saw Shrek the Ogre (voice of Mike Meyers) all was well and good in the land of Far, Far Away. Shrek had battled a dragon, vanquished evil Prince Charming, won and wed Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz), the girl Ogre of his dreams in Shrek 2, and Fiona became pregnant in Shrek 3.
Challenged to come up with trouble in this happy-ever-after lovefest, screenwriters Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke decided Shrek is bored with fame, adulation, fatherhood and even his beloved Fiona. In short he is having a mid-life crisis after only one year of marriage.
This sounds a lot like real life, which is why “Shrek 4” is less appealing to younger viewers. In the end it is perilously close to a “chick flick.”
The wicked Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohm), who was just one of many villains in Shrek 3, now aspires to rule Far, Far Away as King and absolute despot.
If you are familiar with the Bible, you will immediately recognize that Rumplestiltson is a lot like Satan. He lures people astray by encouraging discontent, at same time offering something he swears is better.
That’s exactly what he does with gullible Shrek, who now views the time of being feared as an Ogre and fancy free of responsibility, commitment and romantic entanglement as a paradise lost.
Rumple draws up a complicated contract that promises a return to the good old days for one tiny price: giving up one day- 24 just hours- of his life. Shrek fails to see the implication of losing even one precious day, and terrible things happen.
On the plus side there is a lot of funny stuff when Shrek’s orderly life gets turned upside down. Talkative Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is no longer his sidekick and best friend. Valiant Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) has become fat and lazy. The entire Kingdom of Far Far Away has become a wasteland; its castle occupied by preening Rumble and a gaggle of cackling witches flying about.
Worst of all, Fiona not only does not know Shrek; they have never met, fallen in love or had little Ogres.
My Shrek fanatic 12-year-old friend Trevor still likes the action-packed Shrek 3 the best.
I can see his point, but as an adult and a parent I can see Shrek 4 as an instructive parable about appreciating what you have, who loves you, and cherishing your loved ones. As a lesson it is downright golden, enhanced by a great classic pop music soundtrack, in 3-D and IMAX in select theaters.

Three stars

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