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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Mediogreocrity: Shrek III

Sadly, the most exciting thing about going out to see Shrek III on Thursday was the revelation that there is now a Rock Bottom Brewery on the mutational hot spot also known as Orland Park, Illinois.

Don't worry, I truly don't have anything approaching a dissertation on this one.

The first Shreksucceeded in spite of itself and the tendency to excess, princessery, and lack of talent of some involved. It had a great soundtrack, good voice actors (with the notable and obvious exception), and a charmingly adapted storyline. The jokes that went on a bit too long for the timid rewarded the bold. ("The Muffin Man?" "The Muffin Man!" To say nothing of the big-headed, Doppler-rich screaming through the theme park cattle call.) And the resolution, though obvious, still made one want to cheer.

Shrek II had its issues and dragged in places. But it picked up naturally from the first, honored our favorite characters from the first movie and added some quite clever new ones (definitely, although surpassing belief, Puss, by Antonio Banderas; Prince Charming by Rupert Everett; and, of course, the wonderful Jennifer Saunders as the fairy godmother). Plus, the final number was a barn burner.

Shrek III . . . is long and talky. The first 2/3 or so is full of painfully obvious jokes (and I'm not just talking about the broad jokes for the groundlings children), painfully delivered by cast members who seem as though they'd rather be anywhere than here. Cameron Diaz has never had nor ever will possess a scintilla of talent, but at least in the previous two movies, one felt like she believed that she did. Not so much in this one.

I felt like the villain invasion should have been funnier, though it did have some good visuals. I think the problem is that Prince Charming suffers from Harry Osborn syndrome: He's just not a compelling villain all by his lonesome. No slight intended to Rupert Everett, but John Lithgow and Jennifer Saunders are tough acts to follow.

Worst of all, almost nothing with Shrek, Donkey, and Puss was funny at all. The stuff at Arthur's high school had potential, but felt very strained, much like the beginning of the movie. Arthur himself was a waste of time (and I really thought we'd see more of Lancelot thank the obvious case of mistaken identity), but I guess someone has to keep Cameron Diaz company at the bottom of the talent barrel and it may as well be JT. Eric Idle was wasted, and the only funny bit about Donkey and Puss trading bodies was spoiled in the trailer.

This is not at all to say that there aren't good parts. The bitchy baby shower definitely had its moments. Likewise, Fiona and the Queen ultimately giving the other princesses the bitch slap to arms was both promising and had some good pay off: Snow White segueing from her inane, chirpy woodland song into Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" will never stop being funny (and was one of the very few nice homages to how the first movie turned fairy tales, to a certain extent, on their heads), and even Sleeping Beauty as the narcloeptic speed bump gave me a laugh. But there was so little of this.

The movie picks up considerably in the last 1/3 or so, but then it gets dragged down again by a drawn-out, After School Special ending and a visual tag of Shrek and Fiona as parents that isn't as sweet or amusing as I assume the filmmakers intended it to be.

It is just not a good summer for trilogies, I guess.

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