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Shrek the Third(2007)
Being king isn't for everyone — especially if you're an ornery ogre who smells like the shallow end of a swamp. When Shrek married Fiona, the last thing he wanted was to rule Far Far Away, but when his father- in-law, King Harold, suddenly croaks, Shrek is quickly fitted for the crown. Now, unless the reluctant would- be king can find a suitable replacement, he'll be royally screwed for the rest of his days. As if Shrek didn't have enough on his plate, Princess Fiona has another little surprise on the way. Reeling from the duties of running a kingdom and impending fatherhood, Shrek sets off on a quest to find the only other possible heir to the throne, Fiona's long-lost cousin Artie, a medieval high school outcast. While the ogre is away, his old nemesis Prince Charming rears his handsome head and returns to the kingdom of Far Far Away with redemption on his shallow little mind. Even with Donkey and the ever-so-suave Puss In Boots by their side, it's gong to take an ogre-sized effort — and a whole lot of help from Fiona and her band of princesses — for Shrek and Artie to save the day and find their own "Happily Ever Afters."
For more about Shrek the Third and the Shrek the Third Blu-ray release, see Shrek the Third Blu-ray Review published by Lindsay Mayer on September 28, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, Rupert Everett
Director: Chris Miller
» See full cast & crew
Shrek the Third Blu-ray Review
The big green ogre looks great on Blu, but is his third tale on par with the previous two?
Reviewed by Lindsay Mayer, September 28, 2008
Here we have the latest installment in a rather dubious legacy; Shrek the Third or, The Further Adventures of One Very Lucky Ogre. I'm sure most will not require a refresher course on the commercial darling of DreamWorks Animation, but bear with me. Debuting in 2001, Shrek was a CG animated feature loosely based off the children's book of the same name by William Steig. Telling the story of a hermitic swamp-dwelling ogre whose territory is overrun by displaced faerie tale creatures, the film was a wild and biting parody of the many cultural clichés stemming from classic children's literature. Specifically, Shrek was aimed squarely at the legacy of Disney animated features - many of which are based on the age-old tales. The film served as a sort of vendetta by one Jeffrey Katzenberg, a former Disney honcho who was booted out in a battle royale over corporate power. Still licking his wounds, Katzenberg - one of three founders of DreamWorks SKG productions, the parent entity of DreamWorks Animation - produced Shrek with then-partner Pacific Data Images in an effort to turn the faerie tale genre on its ear. The film's cynical attitude and somewhat novel premise proved to be a winning formula, and Shrek went on to gross nearly $500 million worldwide. This began an entire animated phenomenon from the studio, starting with Shrek 2 in 2004, wherein the eponymous hero must meet his in-laws and contend with the scheming Fairy Godmother. Oh, the fun never stops!
In the years following the first film's enormous success, DreamWorks has certainly been trying their damndest to oversaturate the market with Shrek mania. Three feature films have been released thus far, with three more planned. The television Christmas special Shrek the Halls debuted on the ABC network last year. A stage musical adaptation just opened on the United States' west coast, with plans to open on Broadway in December. Countless amounts of merchandise and licensed deals for everything under the sun have been produced and sold. And one does not have to be a Merlin to divine that DreamWorks will continue their reckless pace with the big green ogre until he ceases to be lucrative. Perhaps the mediocre Shrek the Third is the beginning of the end?
Set eight months after their marriage and taking up shortly after the events of Shrek 2, Shrek the Third begins with Shrek (Mike Myers) and his royal ogress wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), in her native kingdom of Far Far Away. The giant green couple have agreed to substitute for Fiona's ailing father, King Harold (John Cleese) - though Shrek finds all the pompous rituals barely tolerable. The king's health takes a turn for the worse, and on his deathbed he reveals the identity of another living heir to the kingdom. Though he wishes to see his own offspring take up the duty, Shrek adamantly refuses the responsibility, much preferring his simple swamp life. In order to secure the monarchy, Shrek heads out on yet another quest - this time to find Arthur (Justin Timberlake), an obscure member of Far Far Away's royal family, with the intention of crowning the boy king. Before departing with his faithful sidekicks Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas), Shrek is informed by Fiona that he soon going to be a father. Taken completely by surprise, this leaves the great green ogre shaken, to say the least.
Meanwhile, a disgruntled Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), son of the late Fairy Godmother, vows revenge on the royal family, looking to take the throne of Far Far Away. To achieve this, he enlists the help of many a scorned storybook villain, like Captain Hook, the Evil Queen, and Rumpelstilzchen. While Shrek is away, Charming besieges the kingdom in an all-too-easy takeover, imprisoning Fiona and her entourage of faerie tale princesses. Shrek is, of course, visiting distant lands to procure this young Arthur. What he finds instead is Artie, a lowly student at Worcestershire University - so low that even the nerds pick on him. Artie, excited at first to go with Shrek, soon changes his mind and becomes a difficult rock to budge for the frustrated ogre, who is troubled enough grappling with the idea of fatherhood. Puss and Donkey can only stand by and shoot bits of advice his way. The hapless travelers are soon aided by the slightly disturbed magician Merlin (Eric Idle), who fast-tracks their journey home to restore order to the kingdom, overrun by baddies of all shapes.
Like his mother before him, Charming is "dispatched" by film's end, and the protagonists can now get down to the business of domestic life. Donkey has his brood of bizarre little dragon hybrid "dronkeys" to raise, and Shrek and Fiona have three newborns of their own to attend to. The couple can finally return to their boggy home with Artie assuming the position of Far Far Away's new king. Hooray, hooray, Shrek wins the day again.
If the above summary feels a bit by the numbers, it is no coincidence. Shrek the Third is notably weaker than the first two films; that is saying quite a bit, since the series is known for not only its relentless satire of classic stories, but its heavy use of pop culture references and crude, bodily functions gags. The humor caters to the lowest common denominator and has an extremely short shelf life - as a result, the films have not aged well, even in the scant amount of time that has passed since their release. Still, the original and its first sequel had their moments, spawning incredibly fun characters like the proud Spanish cat Puss-in-Boots. The third film, however, was produced by a different creative team - helmed by two new directors for example. It is this, perhaps, that led to a drastic change in tone on Shrek the Third, with too generic a storyline and a dizzying amount of elements thrown in all at once.
After viewing the film in the theatres, a companion of mine made a simple statement - "too many babies." It rather succinctly sums up one of the film's shortfalls - too many babies, too many sidekicks, too many bad guys - just a mess of characters. There are also too many subplots, and too much gab. What's the point of an animated film when all you have is talking heads? The plot itself feels too disjointed, and when this is compounded with the "too many" problems, one is left with a real clunker of a film. Even character continuity appears to not have been upheld when the series changed hands, and it surely does not bode well for the next Shrek films that DreamWorks intends to sic upon the public. Ah, well. Perhaps we will be pleasantly surprised. Though I do not personally hate Shrek or any of its growing amount of spinoffs, I think I can speak for a fair few when I say I've had enough snarky ogre to last me a lifetime.
Shrek the Third Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shrek the Third makes its debut on Blu-ray Disc with an AVC encoding averaging about 30 Mbps. Being a film fresh out of 2007 with completely digital origins, Shrek the Third looks excellent in this high definition transfer. The lushly detailed environments are done incredible justice in this release, with every rough surface or flower petal visible from any distance. The hyper-realism that DreamWorks employs on its human character designs in the Shrek series is quite plain to see here, with a hint of creepiness that hovers over the Uncanny Valley. The incredible amount of fur detail on Puss and Donkey, or the scaly hide of his mate Dragon, or even the pores and stubbly "shadow" on the face of the title ogre himself are so distinct, they may prove a bit distracting at times should one catch themselves marveling.
Colors are reproduced well throughout - even the pervasive golden lighting on characters, which became a bit annoying after a while, truth be told. Still, it was the choice of one co-director or another to use those warm tones, and the Blu-ray captures them well. Shadow detail is excellent, and no compression artifacts or transfer flaws of any sort are apparent. Overall, this film looks quite superb on Blu-ray, but is there a CG animated film yet to be released that doesn't look stellar in high definition?
Shrek the Third Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Boasting a nice array of audio options, Shrek the Third provides an English track in Dolby TrueHD 5.1, as well as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks in Spanish, Portuguese, and French. The TrueHD mix does well in creating a believable soundscape for the film overall. Dialogue is clear and projects nicely from the center channel and the fronts, wherever the character's position calls. Scoring, as well as the film series' signature flavor-of-the-moment pop songs, play over the action but never drown it out. The rear channels do a fine job of engulfing the viewer in the ambient noise of rushing water, the ethereal flow of magic, or the discord of action scenes. Likewise, the LFE adds appropriate weight to the action onscreen without overdoing bass effects. This Blu-ray has an impressive aural presentation that does justice for its excellent picture quality.
Shrek the Third Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Shrek the Third comes to Blu-ray with a good supply of extra features, although very few are especially substantial. With one exception, all of the included material is provided in high definition. At the top of the list is the Animators Corner, a picture-in-picture feature that plays the entire film in its storyboard form along with the finished product. At certain points, the disc uses branching technology to play pitches of deleted scenes. Two additional features are available during playback of the film, though the ubiquitous audio commentary is surprisingly excluded this time around; one can only wonder why DreamWorks decided to boot any filmmaker insight for Shrek the Third's home video release. In any case, Shrek's Trivia Track provides many a tidbit on the film's production and characters. Additionally, The World of Shrek focuses all creatures great and small within the ogre's fictional world, compiling profiles and favorites for everyone from Fiona to the Three Little Pigs. It's a bit of odd choice making this feature available only while the film is running, but hey.
Shrek's Guide to Parenthood is a skippable novelty featuring tips in the form of text screens from Donkey, Puss in Boots, Pinocchio, and Gingy the Gingerbread Man on how to handle children and any problems that may arise from them. Meet the Cast, the only standard definition featurette on the disc, runs about 11 minutes. The breezy segment looks at the celebrity voice talent behind the film's main characters, as well as the comic women (many of whom are Saturday Night Live alumni) who voice the gang of faerie tale princesses. Lost Scenes is the longest of the disc's supplements, with 26 minutes worth of concepts that never made it beyond storyboard form. The four scenes - "Fauxly Grail," "Hot Lunch," "Cyrano de Artie," and "Dopplegangers," are pitched by their respective board artists and focus mainly around Artie's character development. Whether it's his infatuation with Guinevere or attempts by Shrek to boost his morale, it seems that spending valuable runtime to flesh Artie out a bit became less of a priority, as his very superficial character in the final film could attest. The tired gags and listless, generic action contained in these sequences certainly didn't help to make them more appealing.
The Tech of Shrek discusses the differences in Shrek the Third versus the previous two films. More complex musculature, hair, textiles, and effects work like water, fire, and the plasmic beams of magic show a distinct improvement in the ogre's latest iteration, while lighting, crowds, and environments have become more complex as the technology has evolved to allow it. As an example, Shrek took 5 million CPU render hours to complete, Shrek 2 took 10 million, and Shrek 3 took a whooping 20 million. Of course, among those millions of rendering hours, mistakes will occur due to incorrect or corrupted data, and the more amusing results end up on Big Green Goofs, which showcases 2 minutes worth of hairstyles going crazy or limbs defying the laws of physics.
The remaining extras are pure novelty or kiddie fluff. The Donkey Dance is a short 30 second clip of Donkey shaky his furry butt to his own rendition of the 1982 single "The Safety Dance" by Men Without Hats. It comes out left field, frankly - there was nothing from the film itself that spawned this little "music video," and it can only be speculated that it was meant for some promotional tie-in or another. My Menus allows the viewer to pick the theme of the pop-up menu should they select it during the film. Choices range from the original "skin" to character specific menus featuring Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Puss-in-Boots, or Gingy. The DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox contains music segments from eight of DreamWorks' most recent CG animated features, with all of the clips presented in high definition.
The DWK (DreamWorks Kids) section contains three rather disparate features. Merlin's Magic Crystal Ball is nothing but a set-top game version of a Magic Eight Ball. You ask a yes or no question and press a button, resulting in a random positive or negative response from Merlin. Learn the Donkey Dance is little more than the aforementioned clip played repeatedly with simplistic instructions like "jump" or "shake your behind." Finally, How To Be Green is a 4 minute feel-good list of tips on how to live in a more ecologically friendly manner. I'm all for a paradigm shift in the way we humans interact with our environment, but this odd little clip, hidden away in the kid's section, just feels like a throwaway corporate obligation more than a genuine effort at education.
Shrek the Third Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Although the Shrek films have enjoyed a fine amount of popularity in their time, Shrek the Third clearly shows that the series is wearing out its welcome. Perhaps it is because the production changed hands this time around, but whatever the case, the film is a whole different beast from the other two, and not in a good way. Full of a confusing quantity of characters, subplots, and "talking head" moments, Shrek the Third never gels into a cohesive whole. Be that as it may, the Blu-ray release boast excellent picture and sound, and a good quantity of supplemental features, if not exactly quality. This is recommended for the die-hard Shrek fan, or as a rental for the curious.
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