⭐⭐⭐½ averaged across 4 films.

tl;dr: A modern classic followed by one exceptional sequel and two average ones.




Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Obviously, this is not really my first time watching Shrek. It's a rare film that I actually ended up seeing in the cinema several times and went on to love so much as a kid that I must have seen it more than two dozen times since. That said, it's been probably a decade or more since I'd last watched it through, so I was a little wary going in. Not so much for the plot or script, as both of those elements were enjoyed by my parents, but definitely for the CGI and probably a few of the jokes as well.

Well, I'm happy to report that all elements hold up pretty darn well. There are moments when the CGI is a little shaky, most notably in low light situations, but for the most part it could have been released in the last couple of years fairly easily. Shrek's home, the entire castle fight sequence, and most of the characters all still look great. The jokes land just as well too. A few have dulled at the edges, and I definitely found some that used to be hilarious are now not so much, but wonderfully there turned out to be some additional ones I've never noticed before. Homages, such as the Matrix scene in the woods, are much clearer now I know the source material better, but there were even a few subtle jokes here and there (such as Farquaad ashamedly glancing beneath his sheets) that I've never picked up on before

Similarly, having recently rewatched several classic Disney films, I hadn't ever realised how much was almost directly ripped from them in pastiche. The opening storybook montage is almost blow-for-blow the intro to Sleeping Beauty, even down to elements of the animation style. In some films, learning that certain sequences are homages could be problematic, but for Shrek it just adds to it. Much like the oft quoted sequences, this film has layers, and they hold up well.

Voice work, scripting, sound design, music... it's all still great. It's a genuine classic which I'm really glad to see won't get lost to future generations just yet.

Shrek 2

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

We ended up going straight from watching Shrek to seeing the sequel, so I was already in the right frame of mind to enjoy myself. That said, Shrek 2 really didn't disappoint at all. Yes, there's a bit more reliance on pop culture references for the jokes, but the core satirical humour and excellent voice acting is still all there, and the overarching plot is different enough from the original to hold up still.

Whilst Shrek was the childhood favourite, Shrek 2 has always been a close second, and I think that still holds true. There are elements to this film which are genuine improvements on the formula, not least of which is the serious CGI bump. The plot has more nuance, the world is expanded on very cleverly, and the wider character set allows for some more interesting action sequences. That all culminates in the exceptional finale, played out to Bonnie Tyler's I Need A Hero in a sequence that is a classic in its own right. Oh, and of course Puss is that rarest of creations: an add on character who instantly becomes an accepted and almost required part of the team.

I was surprised, though, to find that whilst those final 20 minutes are seared into my memory, I'd retained very little else on top of it. In some ways, that was really quite fun; unlike Shrek, I was able to rewatch the sequel with almost fresh eyes. I'd completely forgotten about the setup for the film, including the honeymoon sequence (so. many. pop. culture. references 😂) and had even forgotten about the Happily Ever After potion, so it was a lot of fun to "re" watch.

The music may not be quite as good as the original (that final couple of songs aside), but the expanded cast, world, and storyline all more than make up for it. I don't hold out much hope for the third and fourth installments, but it's great to see that #1 and #2 in the Shrek saga remain excellent, entertaining movies that everyone should love.

Shrek the Third

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

Bizarrely, this is the first time I've seen the third instalment in the popular ogre-based franchise. I've seen the first more times than I can count, the second well into double digits and the fourth at least twice, but the third has eluded me for years. It finally dropped onto Netflix sometime recently so I jumped at the change to 'complete' the story. The result? It's fine.

Honestly, my biggest reaction to watching this now decade-old film (woah...) was how much the cast has just disappeared. Actors like Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, John Cleese, Antonio Banderas: these were all huge names in the mid-2000s. Now, though, I can't remember the last time I saw them featured in anything, really. It feels like the Shrek train rolled on so long they could all retire, which I could full well believe.

As a film, Shrek the Third is a painting-by-numbers sequel. By the third instalment I feel they had pretty much run out of ideas and were just rolling with the logical sequence of events. If Shrek has married the princess then, someday, he'll become king: how would he react? Now Shrek is married, the next step is children: how would he react? That's about as far as the plot goes, with a side-line notion of rounding off Prince Charming's story from film two. Sprinkle in some toilet humour, get Puss/Donkey into some wacky subplot and add a couple more parodies of well known mythic or fairy tale creatures et voila, you have a Shrek film.

The result is neither good nor bad. It's enjoyable enough, with some genuinely funny, stand out moments and some great song choices. Snow White's switch into Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin stands up to any gag from the original film, the Princesses', in general, had some fun riffs and the medieval American High of Worcestershire was well executed. Beyond that though, little was new or innovative. Shrek's dialogue felt stilted, and neither Puss or Donkey had any particularly memorable moments. The Frog King's death was cringe-worthy and Charming's plan, execution and role felt lacklustre. King Arthur ('Arty') was a good enough excuse for the plot, but the references to Arthurian legend never really went anywhere, which felt like a wasted opportunity.

Voice work was without fault, which you would expect from a cast both of this calibre and with this much experience playing these characters. Animation looked a little dated by today's standards but, honestly, is good enough to stand up for a long time to come. The only really odd part was how uncanny-valley Shrek's face appears sometimes - there just isn't enough space around his facial features, making it look somehow photoshopped into place. I'd be interested to rewatch either of the previous films to see if this is some change in rendering for Shrek the Third or just dating of the technology used in general.

At the end of the day, Shrek the Third is what you would expect: a quickly put together piece of children's entertainment, designed to maximise the return from the original's insane level of (deserved) popularity. As a film with little reason to exist beyond making more money, it does a lot better than it could have done. As a film with little reason to exist beyond making more money, it really isn't worth a watch. But, if you have a spare two hours and fancy a mildly entertaining romp with well-known characters, it won't overly disappoint either.


[This is the first review where the original was on the old MiM system and the rewatch is on the new Craft system. Huzzah!]

As we're currently working our way through the Shrek franchise, it was time to rewatch Shrek the Third... and I largely agree with what I said last time. Interestingly, I did feel like Shrek's face was a bit off whilst watching, and that's compared to the original two films, which means they clearly did something odd with the character models or textures for film three. I also still agree that, for the most part, this is a film showing signs of being written by formula with rare moments of excellence.

Crucially, those moments are never given room to breathe. Yes, Snow White's Led Zeppelin homage is brilliant, but it ends way too quickly. Eric Idle's Merlin should have been far more fun and, indeed, the entire Arthurian legend could have been more usefully tied in. I actually think that Arthur should have been the main focus and would rather have seen him unite his schoolmates to form his knights with Shrek's help, rather than the Charming vs. the rest of the cast plot we get. Also, the whole theatre element really doesn't make any sense. It's interesting to look at and they do a great job of designing that "set" but it is a bit lacklustre compared to the emotional finale of Shrek and the action-packed finale of Shrek 2.

I also feel it's a great shame that the closing song was just stuck in the credits, rather than somehow being built into the show like the previous films. Again, this feels like a half baked idea, cooked for just long enough to be passable but not refined in any way. Which is a shame, because underneath I do still think this film is much better than it needed to be and could have easily been taken up a level or two. Though I did mind the death of the king sequence less, it seems, with time.

Shrek Forever After

Spoilers Ahead: My reviews are not spoiler-free. You have been warned.

It appears that the Shrek franchise is now almost entirely intended for adult audiences, which means we get to launch into Shrek: The Mid-life Crisis! for the fourth outing. We open on a Shrek who is lamenting the loss of his peaceful, bachelor days of scaring villages and generally frolicking in the mud. It's a fairly typical and dull setup, but I'll forgive it simply because the film manages to use that pitch to create a surprisingly interesting story. Rumpelstiltskin is a competent villain, with a decent-enough plan, and the hard reset on the entire franchise that his magical mischief creates gives them plenty of room to explore these now almost too-familiar characters in a whole new light.

Fat puss was a well-managed joke that kept delivering, feisty rebel-leader Fiona gives her some needed character development, and even the Pied Piper feels like a fun addition. The opening moments in the trailer park for villains is up there with some of their best fairy-tale parody ideas, whilst getting to explore even a little of ogre culture is quite fun. Yes, there's a lot of fan service here and retreading of the first two films, but I think it largely fits.

Better still, the music is back, the humour has returned, and the new characters feel like more than quick cameos or underused ideas that came from a half-hour spitballing session. There may not be quite the standout moments of Shrek the Third, nor does this really live up to the first two films, but it's definitely the third-best of the core franchise and a welcome return to form. They've also fixed the weird animation issues of the third movie, meaning that we finally get a Shrek film which looks like modern CGI.

Overall, then, this feels like a worthy finalé to the franchise and a much better ending for these characters than what we had.

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