Shrek the Third (2007)

Rated PG. Our ratings: V- 0; L- 3; S/N-4. Running time: 1 hour 32 min.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought
for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible,
so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room
for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance
is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your
enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give
them something to drink; for by doing this you will
heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be
overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Romans 12:17-21

The plight of Shrek (Mike Myers) in the third film of the franchise will appeal more to adults than children, his dilemma being a vocational one. The ogre is ambiguous about becoming a father, and downright opposed to becoming king of Far Far Away Land when his father-in-law Harold dies (in a scene that is not all too successful at combining pathos with comedy). When the courtesans try to dress him and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) up in royal duds, and his series of royal duties turn out disastrously, his mind is made up. He wants to return to the foul-smelling swamp where he and Fiona are in their ogre element. Before dying the Frog King told him that there is another person in the royal succession, Arthur Pendragon (Justin Timberlake), a cousin of Fiona’s. Shrek determines to set out with his two loyal sidekicks Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to locate and bring him back.

Sailing off into a series of misadventures, Shrek and company find Artie, as the cousin calls himself, at a knights’ prep school where he is treated as anything but royalty. The timid Artie is inept at jousting and virtually everything else, making him the target of ridicule. The slender teenager is a far cry from the Arthur of Disney’s The Sword in the Stone, as, on the way back to Far Far Away, he struggles against Shrek to turn the ship around because of the danger ahead.

Meanwhile, the disgraced Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), another of the many reversals of a Disney character, is surviving as a dinner theater actor. Coming upon a tavern full of other fairytale villains (including Captain Hook, the Headless Horseman, and the wicked stepsisters), he manages to convince them to join him in seizing control of Far Far Away. This, of course being a post modern send up of the fairytale genre, Fiona is not the helpless princess awaiting rescue. She and the saucy members of her court—they include the widowed queen (Julie Andrews), Snow White (Amy Poehler), Sleeping Beauty (Cheri Oteri), and Cinderella (Amy Sedaris), all (except for the queen) re-invented as jaded suburban wives—try to fight the villains, but they are subdued and thrown into dungeons, leaving it up to Shrek and crew to save them. And saving they do stand in need of, the wicked Charming planning to execute them as part of a musical play based on the story of Rapunzel that he is staging for the citizens of Far Far Away. This in itself seems like a parody of the Broadway musicals based on the Disney films.

The critics have been hard on this sequel, but there is much to enjoy, even if the underlying sentiment is anything but positive. The animation is even better than in the previous two films, with wonderful facial expressions achieved by the animators. The brief scene in which Shrek and Fiona shove Puss out of their bedroom, and he goes into the wide-eyed, mournful-kitty mode of “How could you do this to lovable me?” is hilarious, as is the scene in which Pinocchio (Cody Cameron), trying to preserve the present length of his nose, answers in lawyerese when Charming and company interrogate him and he tries to dodge telling either the truth or an untruth: Prince Charming: You! You can’t lie! Where is Shrek?

Pinocchio: Well, uh, I don’t know where he’s not.

Prince Charming: You don’t know where Shrek is?

Pinocchio: On the contrary, Prince Charming: So you do know where he is!

Pinocchio: I’m possibly more or less not definitely rejecting the idea that I undeniably Prince Charming: Stop It!

Pinocchio: Do or do not know where he shouldn’t probably be. If that indeed wasn’t where he isn’t!

Maybe it is not as fresh as the first film, although I enjoyed some of the hilarious anachronisms, such school buses and cheering leaders at the medieval prep school. One might miss the first film’s theme of outsider versus society (by now everyone seems to have accepted our hero’s ogreness), but nonetheless there is plenty for young and adult viewers to enjoy. However, due to some adult humor that includes a drag queen and a reference to Hooters, I would recommend that parents screen the film first to see if they think it is suitable for their children.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) How does the film continue to reverse the elements of the fairy tale genre?

2) A recent New York TIMES writer noted that children today are learning the spoof of fairytales before being exposed to the originals: do you think this is true? Have your children, or those you know, had fairytales read to them before seeing the films or videos? What effect might this have on them if the journalist’s assertion is true?

3) How is the death of the Frog King a spoof of traditional death scenes in adventure stories?

4) What does Shrek think about becoming a father? How is this a sign of his lack of maturity? What about Donkey in this regard? How from the start has he been more mature than Shrek?

5) How does Fiona and her cohorts break the mode of the heroine in the traditional fairytales?

6) One reviewer decried the non-violent denouement, preferring the usual everyone fighting climax of adventure movies: what do you think? How is Shrek’s appeal Gandhian, or even Christ-like—or would you like better a Dirty Harry finale? How might the climax be seen as a working out of Romans 12:17-21?