Shrek does not have the same appeal as the likes of Pixar’s Toy Story franchise. Lets just make that point clear from the start. The big green ogre is certainly the equivalent to DreamWorks as Woody and co. are to Pixar, but there is something more appealing and inventive about the concept of the Toy Story movies that puts them in a league of their own. Which goes someway to explain why I had much more anticipation for Toy Story 3 this year then I did for this, the fourth installment in the highly successful Shrek franchise. And it probably didn’t help that I thought Shrek The Third was pretty, well, crap. Toy Story 3 had very high expectations, that it exceeded. Shrek Forever After (Shrek Goes Fourth, Shrek The Final Chapter whatever the marketers wanted to call it at the time of its release), had much lower expectations. I’m happy to report that it did also exceed these expectations, but then again I wasn’t expecting much from it. But it certainly does go someway to retain the spirit of the first (and best) movie and matching up to the success of the enjoyable sequel Shrek 2. 

The story picks up our favourite green Ogre as a point where his life has taken a new turn, that of a domesticated husband and father. Shrek (Mike Myers) longs for the days of when he used to be a real Ogre, sending shivers down the spines of villagers and fending off angry mobs with torches and pitchforks. He decides to make a deal with the conniving and smooth-talking Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) to have just one day as his life used to be. But matters take a turn for a worse when the pact creates an alternate reality where Rumpelstiltskin is King, Ogres are hunted, Shrek has never met Donkey (Murphy) & Fiona (Diaz) and the once swashbuckling Puss-In-Boots (Banderas) is now a fat house cat. It is up to Shrek to get everything back to normal before the day is out but securing true love’s kiss. But that means he’s going to have to get Fiona to fall in love with him all over again. Which is made harder by the fact she has become a freedom fighter for the Ogre plight!

The plot of the film allows for new developments with the characters, the writers give Shrek a much more vulnerable side, maintaining his resourcefulness but allowing him to open up and make the character more human than the already quite impressive characterisation of the first two films already allowed. The relationship between Shrek and Fiona, which was beginning to feel very stale by the third film is given a new fresh breath of energy by double backing what has already been covered but tackling the trials of falling in love in a completely different direction, as one of the pair is already in love with the other one. Murphy and Banderas’ Donkey and Puss do have less to do in this installment, they seem to take the backseat and supply the films better laughs but don’t really do a lot to drive the film forward. A strong villain character is something that the first two films definitely had but the third one lacked in greatly. Here, thankfully, there is a well-rounded villain in the form of Rumpelstiltskin. The character has motive, supplies some of the best laughs and is more menacing than his appearance may lead you to believe.The voice work by Walt Dohrn was raved about by many critics upon this films release, although I think that had more to do with the fact that he is an animator and not an actual actor. His voice work is very good, but doesn’t seem like it’d be much of a stretch for anyone to do. But the character is probably the strongest villain that the franchise has had, and that’s good for the last installment to really create a sense of danger for the characters that audiences have grown to care for (it’s hard to believe it’s almost been 10 years since the first one).

The action is also quite impressive this time around. There are a lot of kinetic action scenes, particularly in the final battle in Rumple’s castle is entertaining and matches the mix of humour and thrills set by the first two movies. There is a lot here that was gravely missing from the third movie but comes back this time round, proving that if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. But what is most successful about this film is that when it heads into the sentimental parts of the movie, mostly involving the relationship between Shrek and Fiona, it doesn’t slip into schmaltz, which is to the writer’s credit. But, at other points, the script is far from subtle. it drives a point very bluntly that is almost patronising to its younger audience. Instead of letting the audience figure out for themselves that this is a story of not knowing what you have in life until it’s gone, Shrek actually just comes straight out and says ‘I didn’t know what I had until it was gone.’ There is enough here for the audience to figure that out for themselves, it’s just at times the writers seem to doubt the intelligence of its younger targeted audience, which isn’t really fair.

The Toy Story franchise felt well-rounded and natural, spanning 15 years, and it felt sad for it to end, but it felt right. In the case of Shrek, it is very much time for it to stop. The third movie definitely showed that the characters were beginning to wane and the material running thin. But they couldn’t leave it off there, that would’ve left the audience with a bitter taste in the mouth. It certainly needed closure, and although the finale of this movie doesn’t quite match the celebratory feel of the end of the first two movies, there is a certain sense of a definitive end that the franchise needed. The end credits sequence is also nice to view as a way of looking back at the franchise. So while Shrek Forever After may not quite match the heights of the first two movies, it gives the franchise a satisfying ending with fresh laughs, impressive development of familiar characters and a comfortable familiar atmosphere. Now everybody, do the roar!

3/5- Although it doesn’t quite match up to the heights of the first two installments, it more than makes up for the third movie with a surprisingly satisfying conclusion to the franchise.