"Shrek" was a hit and "Shrek 2" was a massive hit, so a third film in the series is not exactly unexpected. While I was never a big fan of the rather sappy original, the sequel was a bit sharper and swifter, packed with more gags and a new character (Puss in Boots) that frequently stole scenes. The third film is a lot more of the same - it's passibly entertaining, but the overall impression is that the franchise is starting to wear thin.
Early in the film, King Harold, aka the Frog Prince (voiced by John Cleese), has just passed away. Shrek is the next in line, although he would rather go back to his old swamp with bride Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz). However, before he can do so, he'll have to find a suitable replacement for the throne. Fiona thinks she may have the answer: a long-lost cousin named Artie (Justin Timberlake), so Shrek (Mike Meyers), Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas, once again, the funniest thing in the movie) head off to find him. One of the funniest scenes in the movie comes early on, as Puss-in-Boots says goodbye to his various cat girlfriends and, when a crowd of exs gather, he realizes it's time to make a quick exit.
However, as the trio are sailing away, Fiona yells in the distance that she's pregnant, which leads to one of the most adult jokes (it's essentially bleeped, but still) in the series. Once they eventually arrive at Arthur's high school, they find out that the unpopular Arthur isn't exactly King material - he asks Shrek not to eat him, to which the crowd of kids in the auditorium chants, "Eat him! Eat him!" On their way back, Arthur has second thoughts until the group comes across the cottage of off-the-rails magician Merlin.
Meanwhile, Fiona, mother Lillian (Julie Andrews) and the "Princess Posse" - Snow White (Amy Poehler), Sleeping Beauty (Cheri Oteri), and Cinderella (Amy Sedaris) - have to face off against Prince Charming (a terrific Rupert Everett), who has come back with a series of villains (including the Evil Witch, who, after being defeated by Snow White, was trying to make money as a pool hustler.)
There's a handful of great little throwaway gags in "Shrek the Third" (When Shrek tries to talk "hip" to Artie, he screams, "Help! I'm being kidnapped by a monster who's trying to relate to me!"), but the plot seems even thinner than the first two films, with a villain that is defeated in the most halfhearted way possible. Charming rounds up a whole gang of former villains, but the movie really does very little with the idea. The whole thing has less energy and momentum than the second picture, and some of the performances are rather subpar (Meyers seems a tad bored, while Timberlake doesn't make much of an impression.) Puss-in-Boots and Donkey, the most entertaining characters of the bunch, are mostly in the background (one of the issues with sticking a few too many characters in a movie that's about 85 minutes + credits), and a running gag where Puss and Donkey switch bodies thanks to Merlin isn't as funny as the movie seems to think - or hope - it is.
Overall, moments of "Shrek 3" do get a few good laughs, but they don't come as often as they did in the prior film. The script and performances don't feel like quite as much care went into them this time around, either. While not entirely coasting on the success of the series, one hopes that "Shrek 4" - which will likely happen - will be a bit more inspired and find the charm that's in shorter supply for this third picture.
VIDEO: "Shrek 3" is presented by Dreamworks in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Presentation quality is perfectly fine, as the film's animation - which is an advancement over the animation in the prior two films - looks crystal clear throughout the show. No edge enhancement or artifacting were seen, and colors remained bright and bold throughout the presentation.
SOUND: The third film offers a reasonably enjoyable Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. Surround use is fairly minimal, but the rear speakers do kick in here-and-there with some ambience and effects. The majority of the audio is spread nicely across the front soundstage. Audio quality is fine, with crisp dialogue, score and effects.
EXTRAS: Interestingly enough, the supplements here are fairly minor, consisting largely of promotional materials and materials for kids. "Big Green Goofs" consists of the usual tech slip-ups, while the deleted scenes section offers up 3 ditched sequences in storyboard form. "Donkey Dance" is a not-particularly-funny music video riff on "Safety Dance" that lasts less than a minute. "Meet the Cast" is the usual promotional piece chatting with the cast, while "Tech of Shrek" is an interesting look at the animation (although with all the HP mentions, it can sound like an ad for HP at times.) "Shrek's Guide to Parenthood" has a few of the characters giving silly parenting advice.
"Animation Video Jukebox" offers a few music-related clips from other Dreamworks titles, including the underrated "Madagascar". There's also interactive games, previews for other titles from the studio and DVD-ROM activities.
Final Thoughts: "Shrek the Third" still brings some laughs, but sees the series slipping, with a few too many characters, less energy and a tale thinner than the previous ones. The DVD presentation offers excellent audio/video quality, but the extras are something that will be watched once. A light recommendation.
The Film B-