It is no easy task to stick out in the open sewer that is the American film industry. Most films pass into relative obscurity only a few years after their release, yet some continue to touch the hearts and minds of people around the world forever. The seminal Shrek franchise is among these select few, elite films to have evolved from simple movies to cultural staples of modern humanity.
Shrek has been lauded as the voice of a generation; these tales of magic, whimsy, and onions have continued to entertain and teach millions despite their advanced age. Shrek, Shrek Two, and Shrek Forever After produced an iconic cast of characters. Talking animals and magical creatures, side by side, referencing early mid 2000s popular culture. It was nearly the perfect beast.
Unfortunately, Shrek the Third blights the series’ otherwise spotless record. It does nothing to support the franchise’s overarching story, differentiate itself from its predecessors, or contribute to the Shrek compendium. Much like the Third Battle of Ypres, the Third Shrek was an avoidable, costly mistake and a severe blow to Scottish national pride. Accordingly, it should be stricken from the Shrek canon and forgotten in its entirety.
Like the other installments of the Shrek series, the Third attempts to introduce new characters such as Merlin the Wizard, Arthur and Shrek’s children. Unfortunately, none of these new entries into the Shrek universe are particularly compelling. Arthur, another heir to the throne of Far, Far Away which Shrek recently inherited, is winey and unlikable. Merlin, a poverty-stricken wizard on verge of psychosis that Shrek and Arthur find living in the woods, is redundant comedy relief.
The redundancy and number of roles and characters is also a major issue afflicting the film. Shrek the Third expects the audience to follow the exploits of a staggering twenty-eight characters, an absurd expectation for a movie that is aimed at children on the left-hand side of the bell curve. Out of these characters, a baffling twenty-two are purely for comic relief and serve no role in advancing the greater story.
The overabundance of comedic relief is disappointment to many fans who come see Shrek for its heart and soul. Not just its comedic chops. The comedy in Shrek the Third doesn’t feel in service of the story as much as it does a distraction that there is very little of it. The film also doesn’t contribute to the Shrek Universe. It once again utilizes Prince Charming as the antagonist, who was already defeated in the previous film. The Shrek franchise has always been known for its rogue’s gallery; the Fairy God Mother, Lord Farquaad, Rumpelstiltskin, all classic villains of the silver screen. Shrekheads have come to expect consistent innovation from the series and the reuse of Prince Charming is a spit in the face to fans.
The real villain of Shrek the Third clearly should have been Shrek’s impending fatherhood and the political crisis he was causing by trying to abdicate the throne of his kingdom. The other new characters, Shrek and Fiona’s offspring, are disturbing to look at and complete affronts to better judgement. They scare children and adults alike and are by far the most compelling of the new characters.
Shrek the Third is entirely superfluous. Its events make the events of the Shrek Two irrelevant by returning Shrek to his swamp, the only difference being now he has his horrible offspring. Both of these developments are then covered in the opening of Shrek Forever After. So, what exactly was the purpose of Shrek the Third? We never see Arthur or Merlin again and Shrek Forever After takes place in a reality in which Shrek doesn’t have grotesque children. Why even bother introducing them as new characters? Shrek the Third should never have been made and to this day I am surprised it was. From a studio that has produced such hit classics as Shark Tale, Boss Baby and The Croods, Shrek the Third is a serious misstep. Even Abominable, DreamWorks newest film, despite being communist Chinese propaganda, is superior to Shrek the Third because at least it believes in something.
Shrek the Third is the Konstantin Chernenko of cinema. It is a sickly film that is rendered superfluous by its successors, is easily forgotten, and does little to improve or expand the Shrek lore and universe. Shrek, Shrek Two, and Shrek Forever After are better films in every single regard. Shrek the Third is an embarrassing misstep in an otherwise perfect record of laughs, gasps, and Ogre themed fun. We can only hope that Shrek the Third is discarded into the ash heap of history and forgotten by all sooner than later. The quicker Shrek can return to the masterpiece installments that the audience has grown accustom to the better off humanity will be in the long run. I rate Shrek the Third four out of five bags of popcorn.