Shrek Forever After
"And they lived happily ever after."
That's the ending all fairy tale characters long for. And after three big-screen adventures, that's the life the world's most recognizable ogre is living. For Shrek, however, there's just one problem: Happily ever after isn't working out like he thought.
Oh, sure, life is good. Shrek loves his wife, Fiona. And his days are filled with the domestic duties that come with being the father of triplet ogre babies: changing diapers, play dates with Donkey and Dragon's offspring, birthday parties. The only thing missing is an ogre minivan.
Well, mud baths, too. And solitude. And being able to relish that sense of dread he used to inspire in the local villagers. OK, so there's a lot missing, Shrek realizes—everything that once defined his identity. "I used to be an ogre," he complains. "Now I'm just a jolly green joke." What he'd give for just one day of angry villagers chasing him with pitchforks and torches.
Turns out he doesn't have to give much. All Shrek has to do, according to Rumpelstiltskin, a deceptive charmer who happens to hear Shrek's self-centered tale of woe, is sign a magical contract—and he'll have 24 glorious hours to rediscover what it means to live life like an ogre should.
Rumpelstiltskin, of course, has something more devious in mind. He grants Shrek's wish, asking to be given in return one of Shrek's childhood days. What he doesn't say is that the day he's going to take is the day the ogre was born. With the stroke of a pen, Shrek's self-absorption plunges him into an alternate universe that's a twisted version of the land he loves. It's a land Rumpelstiltskin rules, where witches hunt ogres and none of his friends know who he is.
Suddenly, Far Far Away—at least the version of it Shrek thought he'd become tired of—is even farther away. And boring old happily ever after is starting to sound pretty good.
Only by winning the love of Fiona all over again does Shrek stand a chance of restoring normalcy. But Fiona's never met him. And she doesn't have much time for romance, either, because she's busy leading an ogre resistance into battle against Stiltskin's witches.
Before making his deal with Stiltskin, Shrek can't stop feeling sorry for himself. Fiona, however, has a much more mature perspective on how good their lives are. She tells her husband, "Shrek, you have three healthy children, a wife who loves you and friends who adore you. You have everything. Why is it that the only person who can't see that is you?"
Once the life Shrek takes for granted is gone, he naturally realizes the magnitude of his mistake. Thus, the main themes here revolve around learning contentment and recognizing the rich blessings of family. Shrek also realizes that he has to rely on his friends and not just his own brute strength to solve problems. And as he sets out to (re)win Fiona's heart, he discovers anew why he fell in love with her in the first place.
For her part, Fiona's life has worked out quite differently in Stiltskin's alternate universe. There, Shrek never rescued her or set her free from the curse that makes her an ogre at night. But that fact didn't quench her spirit. Tired of waiting for her knight in shining armor, she escaped the keep where she was held and became the fierce, Robin Hood-like leader of an underground band of ogres determined to resist Stiltskin's cruel rule.
Far from mindless, raging beasts, the ogres are presented as a proud, stouthearted race willing to sacrifice anything to achieve freedom. In the same vein, Shrek makes a sacrificial decision to offer his own life to Rumpelstiltskin in exchange for all the ogres the little dictator has captured.
Beyond typical fairy tale "magic," Rumpelstiltskin is a scheming con man who uses enchanted contracts to ensnare his prey. He is also a malevolent dictator—an annoying cartoon mash-up of Napoleon and Louis XIV—who relies upon a small army of broom-riding, hat-wearing witches to keep his subjects under his thumb.
The baritone barmaid Doris has one (very) brief scene and again comes across sounding/looking like a drag queen. The outsized personality of the ogre cook named Cookie could be interpreted as "flamboyant." Thinking that Shrek wants to kiss him, Donkey blurts out, "You're going to have to take me to dinner first!"
The Gingerbread Man's frosted-on pants fall off. As the king and queen's carriage rolls into a village inhabited by outcasts, a creepy, leering woman blows the king a kiss. Shrek and Fiona are shown in bed together, though not in a sexual sort of way. They kiss several times, as do Donkey and his wife, Dragon.
Fiona's dress reveals cleavage.
Shrek briefly gets what he wanted when scared villagers come after him with pitchforks and torches. As they hurl pointy implements at him, Shrek dodges them, spinning and smiling in slow motion. Another such moment involves Shrek and Fiona practicing for battle: They end up hitting each other repeatedly in the face and laughing about it.
Just as in the previous franchise installments, then, there's plenty of cartoonish violence in Shrek Forever After. In contrast with the other films, some of the violence between the ogres and Stiltskin's witches feels more intense. The witches frequently lob explosive pumpkins to grand pyrotechnic effect. They also employ projectile manacles (think bear traps with chains attached) to capture the ogres. We see enslaved ogres in cages and doing hard manual labor. Shrek, too, ends up in a cage. And he and Fiona are eventually shackled to opposite walls—almost close enough to kiss, but not quite. Battle scenes involve ogres using medieval weaponry to take out flying witches.
More sinister still is Stiltskin's rebuke of a group of witches who fail to capture Shrek. It ends with him throwing water on one unfortunate witch who melts away into nothing. Stiltskin's nasty, giant duck eventually gets vaporized too.
Elsewhere, Pinocchio tosses Stiltskin out a window. Stiltskin slaps a little pig. A gluttonous Puss in Boots eats the Gingerbread Man. Fiona puts a knife to Shrek's throat. Witches cruelly and repeatedly whip Donkey as he pulls their cart. Townspeople hurl whatever they have handy at a caged Shrek when he's rolled into town. Dragon unsuccessfully tries to eat Donkey. Puss stabs Dragon with a dagger. When it looks as if the ogres will defeat Rumpelstiltskin, one of them jokes, "Looks like we're having curly toed weirdo for breakfast."
Crude or Profane Language
Donkey labels himself an "ass"—a technically accurate description that does winking double duty as a profanity. Donkey also blurts, "Oh hello" in a way that could be heard as "Oh h‑‑‑ no." Another quip implies a racial slur when Donkey tells the Gingerbread Man, "What you talking about, cracker?" Pinocchio labels Stiltskin "Rumpel Stinky Pants." The favor is returned with "Balsa Boy." Other name-calling includes "dirty little man," "crazy," "insane" and "weirdo." The usually foul phrase "what the ..." isn't completed.
Drug and Alcohol Content
At the end of a long day of parenting, we see Shrek holding a martini glass with an eyeball skewered by a toothpick. Later, Stiltskin plies Shrek with more "eyeball-tinis" to help sell the ogre on his crafty contract. We see five empty glasses, and it's implied that Shrek has downed most of them. We also see Stiltskin and his witches imbibing from similar martini glasses. Townsmen are seen drinking beer.
Other Negative Elements
Fiona doesn't start to feel any attraction to Shrek until they're hitting each other. Her singing makes a bird explode.
Donkey swallows a couple of eyeballs and then pops them out of his nostrils. We repeatedly hear Shrek's baby ogres belch and pass gas. Each time, Fiona says, "Better out than in." As Shrek changes a diaper, he's drenched with a stream of liquid from one of his kiddos. (We assume it's urine, of course, but it's actually the baby squeezing water out of a fish.) Shrek highlights the level of stench coming from one odiferous diaper.
Shrek struggles to get a moment of peace in his outhouse. Each time he retreats there, a celebrity tour bus comes by and points out his house. The third time this happens, the outhouse frame gets knocked over, and we see Shrek sitting there, annoyed. The tour operator says Shrek's heroism proves that "you don't have to change your undies to change the world."
Shrek meanly tells Fiona, "It's not like you're a real ogre!"
Is it a bit odd that Shrek's best messages so often seemed aimed at adults? As a father of two with another on the way, I appreciate the overall message in Shrek Forever After: Savor your family and remember to be thankful for all those dirty diapers and rowdy play dates. There comes a stressful moment at which Shrek has to make a decision about how he's going to react to his wife, his children and his friends. He makes the wrong choice ... then he makes the right one. And by doing so he inspires me to clamp down on my sometimes negative reactions too. Because the real adventure in life is about being a good dad, not dodging pitchforks … a lesson Shrek eventually remembers.
So, as Shrek's onscreen journey ostensibly concludes, I'd like to give him credit for taking a few baby ogre steps in the right direction. This story's creativity and execution is certainly better than what we encountered in the last installment. And maybe it's just the time that's passed since Shrek the Third that makes me think so, but it even feels like the negative content has been dialed down a decibel or two.
But not three or four. This final film still has moments of bawdy, wink-wink humor, the kind that's always been part and parcel with the Shrek experience. Poop pranks. Outhouse preoccupations. Eyeball-tinis. Visual gags designed to evoke sexual preference-related laughs. "Profanities." Intense and foreboding battle scenes that will feel especially so for young viewers.
A postscript: Marketing for Shrek Forever After isn't playing nice with the other children. The movie posters, for example, practically beg kids to start appreciating the crasser things in life. One reads, "What the Shrek Just Happened?" Another, "Where My Witches At?" And a sexually suggestive photo spread involving Shrek's animated characters posing with lingerie-clad models appeared in the men's fashion magazine VMan about a month before the film arrived in theaters. "I don't think Walt Disney would have allowed Snow White and Cinderella to appear in a magazine spread that made it look like they were about to participate in a ménage à trios," wrote New York Post film critic Kyle Smith. "I doubt the pictures are going to corrupt the youth of America, since they're in a fashion magazine that would probably not interest children. But someone should be fired for having such a dim understanding of the Shrek brand that they were willing to trade his carefully nurtured family-friendly image for some cheap publicity in a tired and vaguely tawdry fashion spread."
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Voices of Mike Myers as Shrek; Eddie Murphy as Donkey; Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona; Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots; Julie Andrews as Queen; John Cleese as King; Walt Dohrn as Rumpelstiltskin; Jon Hamm as Brogan; Craig Robinson as Cookie; Jane Lynch as Gretched; Kathy Griffin as Dancing Witch and Wagon Witch #1; Lake Bell as Patrol Witch and Wagon Witch #2; Ryan Seacrest as Father of Butter Pants; Larry King as Doris; Regis Philbin as Mabel; Conrad Vernon as Gingerbread Man
May 21, 2010
December 7, 2010