Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Ogre Shmogre

[minor spoilers]

The trouble with making fun of cliches is that if you keep doing it long enough you end up becoming one yourself. That, at any rate, is the Evil Fate that seems to have befallen the Shrek franchise, whose third outing is every bit as banal and predictable as the Disney features it attempts to lampoon. Oh, Shrek and co. are still trying to be as non-Disney as possible - fair damsels are still kicking ass; fairy tale characters are still making wisecracks and the hero is still, well, an ogre - but the point is that they're trying to be non-Disney, it's not coming naturally. What was fresh to the point of being revelatory in the first Shrek film now feels old and used. It's not just that the jokes in this new film are thin on the ground, it's also that you can see them coming seven leagues off.

Which is not to say the new film is entirely without merit. There are a couple of hilarious scenes (involving some old rock favourites) and an amusing take on the Arthur legend, complete with a New Age Merlin (though curiously missing the sword in the stone); but the plot is flimsy to the point of incoherence, the dialogue trite, the jokes forced and the ending about the lamest thing in animation since Bambi. If the seven dwarfs were still around, they'd be walking around singing "Ho hum! ho hum! once more to work we come".

Worst of all, hard as they try to deny it, the scriptwriters have turned sentimental on us. The original Shrek film had genuine Attitude [1], this one feels like the work of middle aged suburbanites trying desperately to be cool. There's a point in the film where the young Arthur runs from Shrek shouting "Help! Help! I'm being chased by a monster trying to relate to me". We know exactly how he feels. When you get to the point where the most threatening thing the hero of a fairy tale is faced with is imminent fatherhood, you can't help wishing that you, too, were Far Far Away.

Hopefully, this is the end of the franchise. If I have to sit through an hour and a half of Shrek Four: Toilet Training I swear I'm going to have to go find the old torch and pitchfork.

[1] yes, with the capital.


Anonymous said...

That could have easily been a review for the latest offering of the Pirates of the Caribbean.


Falstaff said...

N: Except that PoC 3 is twice as long. And has way more eye candy. I haven't seen either the second or the third film, but I know I spent the first one mostly drooling over Johnny Depp and trying to decide whether Keira Knightley was prettier than Orlando Bloom (I decided she is, but it was close). I have this vague impression that there was a plot in there somewhere, something about pirates and treasure and suchlike, but one look at Captain Sparrow's kohl-rimmed eyes put that entirely out of my head.

Anonymous said...

PoC-3 is way too long and with too many threads to pull together, with some explored only half-heartedly. The 1st was definitely the best, 2nd was fine, but the 3rd is stale...quite like the seven dwarves' sentiment you quoted. Why, even Capt Sparrow was only half there, whereas in the 1st he was brilliant.

As your Knightley Vs Bloom debate is already settled, there's no new eye candy unless you want to consider a larger-than-life Naomie Harris. :)

Just a suggestion though, if you want to watch the 3rd edition, watch the 2nd too, else the plot of the 3rd will be even more vague than that of the 1st.


Cheshire Cat said...

You went to watch Shrek 3?? You have some explaining to do.

And I entirely disagree about Keira and Orlando. Keira is certainly more handsome than Orlando.

Falstaff said...

N: Nah. I think watching Shrek puts paid to this quarter's dose of pleb entertainment, thank you.

cat: Ya, I know. I think it was mostly because I genuinely loved the first Shrek film. And much to my amazement the second one turned out to be halfway decent. Which is why I thought risking the third may not be a bad idea.

As for Ms. Knightley and Mr. Bloom, does it have to be mutually exclusive? I'd say Ms. Knightley's both prettier AND more handsome than Mr. Bloom.

Space Bar said...

PoC has one or two redeeming one-liners (at which I admit I laughed), several stock melodramatic lines that have to be meta-ironic to be any fun, and some stones that turn into crabs. And much as I love Johnny Depp, I'm not sure having more than one of him on the screen at any given point is a good idea.