Shrek the Third

Third Time’s a Dud

Shrek the Third. The voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz star in a film written by Andrew Adamson and directed by Chris Miller and Raman Hui.

Cartoons are supposed to be about defying the laws of imagination. From the beginning, they’ve constituted the fantasy end of the cinematic spectrum, the soul of “special effects.” This cartoon, from a rich franchise, is just okay, though, and in a way that speaks volumes about how lousy corporate filmmaking has become.

You and your charges will mildly enjoy Shrek the Third, especially if you liked the first two installments. I did. But afterward you might wonder why. It’s sweet but very slight of topic, a mere continuation of the Shrek formula. This time around, William Stieg’s once-fearsome children’s book ogre is sent on a quest to find Arthur in order to save himself from taking over Fiona’s daddy’s kingdom. On the way to avoid responsibility, though, he learns something about the joys of duty. Yuck. It’s a far cry from the anarchy of the source material.

But in fact, virtually every American animated film reeks of this preachy subtext: How to tame the savage beast? It’s as if the wackiness of the medium requires tight-assed subject matter to provide some cosmic balance. I blame Disney, actually. But even recent non-Disney movies like Barnyard, Monster House, and Cars inherit their themes from such fun but didactic classics as Lady and the Tramp, Beauty and the Beast, and even the great Pinocchio, all stories of wild ids tamed back by the supposedly gentle demands of polite society. Dr. Freud would have a field day.

Even if it weren’t too preachy, it’s not what this audience deserves. Shrek was a hit, Shrek 2 was the sixth highest opening weekend of all time, and this film is already the third highest. That means the filmmakers got very, very rich yanking families out of their warm Barcaloungers. The ticket-buying world deserves better than mildly amusing. As a group of people, we do not need more okay lessons in conforming to a higher order, either. You can see where that got us in the world. We need new primers for free thought and lots of pretty colors, too. What us kids today need is more nice and crazy dreams.

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