This time out, Shrek (Mike Myers) is dealing with his happiness. Badly. It’s too much for him: the children, the cozy home, the regular BBQs with the old friends—even Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and his mixed-species marriage fills him with ennui. He yearns to be loathsome again, or failing that, mud-covered (though not as gleefully evil as William Steig’s lovely, anarchic children’s book ever originally painted him). So Shrek makes an unholy deal with Rumpelstiltskin, a cross between SpongeBob Squarepants and a troll doll, who, we learn in a flashback, has it in for him. And, well, you can guess the rest.
If you’re yawning now, wait till you see the movie. Of course, this film, alleged to be the last chapter in the Shrek franchise, is cute and riddled with running gags (Puss in Boots’ big eyes) and sly pop culture references (Puss calls Donkey “ridonkulous”), but halfway through the film we realize that not only have we seen the same story told a different way three times before, but, worse, nothing is at stake. Not for a moment does anybody believe that Shrek can live in a sty without Fiona (Cameron Diaz) by his side.
The addition of 3-D adds a little spice to the story, but it’s hard to imagine that DreamWorks would retire a franchise as lucrative as this one—the second installment was the highest grossing cartoon of all time—unless they were tired of the same story over and over again, too. It seems even the folks who stand to profit want to leave this boring ogre far, far behind.