Shrek the Third
The world's most famous ornery ogre is back for another misadventure. As the story opens, we find Shrek pining for his stinky swamp; he aspires to nothing more than a quiet life with his wife, Princess Fiona. Palace existence, with its stringent formalities, has become unbearable. And despite Shrek's best intentions, he's forever accidentally causing havoc of all kinds.
Things go from bad to worse when the lime-green lug's frog-shaped father-in-law, King Harold, erm, croaks. The autocratic amphibian's parting wish? That Shrek would become the next ruler of Far Far Away. Before passing, however, the dying dignitary leaves the door open for one other heir to the throne: a distant relative named Arthur (aka Artie).
Shrek pounces upon that possibility with ogre-sized zeal. With his indispensable sidekicks Puss in Boots and Donkey in tow, Shrek departs for the distant land of Worcestershire in search of the would-be king. And as he sets sail, Fiona informs the adventurous ogre that he's going to be a father ... a revelation that turns Shrek's thoughts and dreams upside down.
Meanwhile, the ever-scheming Prince Charming sees his chance for twisted redemption. Rallying such disaffected villains as Captain Hook, Snow White's Evil Queen, the Headless Horseman, Cyclops and others into an angry army, Charming successfully stages a coup, imprisoning Fiona and her high-maintenance posse of princesses (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Rapunzel and ... Doris), as well as Queen Lillian. Charming then dispatches Hook to track down Shrek and the realm's future king (who turns out to be a wimpy, self-absorbed high school student). That sets the stage for a climatic, dramatic and comedic melee that will determine who lives happily ever after in the land of Far Far Away.
Like the first two films in this franchise (Shrek and Shrek 2), Shrek the Third delivers strong messages about family, love and self-acceptance. On his deathbed, King Harold tells his daughter that her love for Shrek "taught me so much." The king who once rejected Shrek now can say, "I'm proud to call you my son." Likewise, Donkey is full of affection for his four dragon/donkey babies (he married a female dragon in the last film); he tells them he loves them, and they reciprocate.
Shrek is terrified of fatherhood ("No one ever says, 'Sweet as an ogre'") but gradually warms up to the idea. Before the birth, he gets in some dad practice relating to Artie, who's a difficult teen. Artie talks about the struggle of growing up fatherless (his dad abandoned him), and Shrek relates the "difficulties" he had in that area ("My father tried to eat me"). The ogre encourages Artie to be his own man ("People thought I was a monster. I believed them. ... Ignore people who call you names, and trust who you are"). It's a message the adolescent later reshapes to convince the film's villains to switch sides. "Just because people treat you like a villain doesn't mean you are one," he says. "The thing that matters most is what you think of yourself." Under Shrek's tutelage and influence, Artie gradually grows from being a pushover to someone self-assured enough to be king.
Still on the parenting theme, both Shrek and Fiona later split the tasks of raising their offspring. And even Cyclops says of his daughter, "Who would have thought a monster like me deserved something as special as you?"
To save Artie's life when Charming is on the verge of killing him, Shrek confesses some important things that he's lied to the boy about, which indirectly preserves Artie's life long enough for Fiona and her princesses to ride to the rescue.
After they find Artie and convince him to be king, Shrek and Co. are shipwrecked and losing hope when they meet Merlin the magician. He mentions the need to "discover your divine promise," stokes a magic fire and says, "Look into the fire of truth and tell me what you see." Shrek sees a baby carriage but lies, "I see a rainbow pony," while Artie sees images of a father bird that abandons a baby bird, which represents his own life. An errant spell from the senile old wizard then transports Shrek and his crew back to Far Far Away ... and swaps Donkey's and Puss in Boots' souls in the process (a mistake the wizard later mostly rectifies).
Mabel and Doris are Cinderella's ugly stepsisters, but Regis Philbin and Larry King voice their characters, giving them a drag-queen feel. That makes this line from Doris sound creepy: "I know he's a jerk, but that Charming makes me hotter than July."
Other scenes go out of their way to expose effeminate qualities in male characters. Shrek's royal outfit includes lipstick applied by a stereotypically portrayed effeminate male servant (who later reappears as Charming's stage manager in a play). A character thinks that Artie is (or looks like) a girl. Shrek compliments Charming on his leotard, then asks if it comes in men's sizes too.
Shrek and Fiona kiss. Donkey pulls the covers off Shrek and Fiona's bed, revealing an apparently naked ogre. We see only his stomach, but the shocked Donkey blurts, "You really need to get yourself a pair of jammies." A princess preparing to go into battle removes her bra (offscreen) and burns it. Others rip off sleeves and skirt hems before combat. One lifts her dress and bares a leg to distract a soldier. (The joke is that in the next instant the ogling men come face to face with one of the ugly stepsisters.) All of the princesses and the queen show a bit of cleavage. Charming's invading forces changes the name of "Ye Olde Bootery" to "Hooters" by slapping an H and an S on the sign.
Shrek jokes about not knowing where babies come from, and Puss in Boots begins to explain, "When a man has a certain feeling for a woman, a powerful urge sweeps over him..." Shrek cuts him off, but Donkey admits he doesn't know where babies come from (even though he has four).
Several clashes between Charming's villains and our heroes include all manner of slapstick violence (though the rogue prince's takeover of Far Far Away is a bit more intense as the baddies fly into town on broomsticks, then trash it). Donkey's dragon-wife grabs one invader in her mouth, then tosses him. When the princesses come to the rescue, Snow White commands forest creatures to attack evil guardian trees.
More seriously, it's implied that Charming was ready to kill Artie. And in rehearsals for Charming's play, two people playing the part of Shrek are apparently killed (we see the body of one being pulled off the stage). It's suggested that Captain Hook use his hook to "do a number" on somebody's face. One of the ugly stepsisters decks the other. We see Artie being bullied at school. The queen is held hostage with a sword at her throat. For a few moments it appears as though Shrek has been impaled.
Jousting, head-butting and other prone-to-injury activities do indeed end in injury. Shrek's antics sink a ship and set the castle on fire. And an unfortunate person he's knighting apparently gets nailed (offscreen) with his sword. Donkey intentionally kicks Shrek in the crotch. Babies inflate frogs like balloons.
Crude or Profane Language
Several times, dialogue suggests profanity without actually going there. In a thick accent Shrek calls King Harold his "frog-king dad-in-law." Donkey asks, "What in the shistershire kind of place is this?" Donkey also begins but doesn’t finish the phrase, "What the..." And after he switches bodies with Puss in Boots, he exclaims, "How in the Hans Christian Anderson am I supposed to parade around in these boots?" The captain of Shrek's ship says, "You, my friend, are royally..." before the final word is cut off by a foghorn. Lobbed insults include "dork," "loser," "freak," "stupid," idiot," "fool," "moron" and "twit."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Two students emerge from a VW van-like stagecoach with smoke pouring out of it. We're left to figure out what kind of smoke it is as they laugh and joke about burning "frankincense and myrrh." Reeling from the body-switch, Donkey blurts, "I haven't been on a trip like that since college."
Prince Charming goes to a rough-looking tavern to recruit his army, where he orders a round of Fuzzy Navels for everyone. Puss in Boots looks forward to an "ice-cold pitcher of mojitos," a traditional Cuban cocktail. After Charming's takeover of Far Far Away, a bar sign advertises, "Mean Mead." We see a drunken man stumbling around on the street.
Other Negative Elements
Visual and verbal references to all kinds of bodily functions pop up frequently. Baby poop, dirty diapers, stretch marks, belching, flatulence, projectile vomiting, trimming nose hairs, itchy bottoms, ear wax, body odor and morning breath all receive the comedic treatment. A baby passes gas as one of Donkey's baby dragons breathes fire—causing an even bigger explosion. A terrified gingerbread cookie has a small piece of pink candy pop out behind him. Mention is made of student bullies who shove others' heads in "chamber pots." High schoolers talk about underpants and wedgies, and they mock a teacher named Mr. Primbottom.
Shrek imagines himself naked in front of an audience of babies. (We see the top part of his bare bottom.) Obnoxious adolescents tell Shrek that he looks like a "giant mutant Leprechaun" and affix an "I Suck-eth" sign to Donkey's behind. Snow White, who sports a tattoo on her upper bicep, gives Fiona one of her (slovenly) dwarfs as a baby shower gift.
If you've seen either previous Shrek film, you already have a good idea of what's on offer here. It's another cockeyed combination of genuinely positive themes and rollicking storytelling regularly interspersed with what feels like unnecessary allusions to sexuality, drugs and bodily functions.
Some of those moments are merely silly and innocent, such as Shrek's baby making bubbles in the bathtub. But this well-told tale isn't helped by its inclusion of a burning bra, mixed drinks, hints at drug use and "playful" approximations of swear words. And then there's the not-so-subtle running joke about men getting in touch with their feminine side while women get down to the business of battling the baddies. These characters—and the actors who play them—are funny enough without such cheap gags and cheap shots.
Many, if not most, of Shrek the Third's edgiest jokes will sail right over the heads of its youngest viewers. They won't know what in the world is going on when two high schoolers role out of a smoke-filled carriage. And yet...
Most kids today are growing up on a media diet that consistently portrays drinking, drugs and sexual ambiguity as humorous non-issues—even if in relatively minor ways. The message is that it's all normal stuff that we don't really need to think or worry much about. In the end, it's just fodder for a good laugh, just part of the comedic background.
Which is unfortunate when there are so many good laughs to be had in Shrek the Third, and praiseworthy messages about love, honor, doing the right thing and self-respect to boot. (Of the Puss variety, naturally.)
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; Rupert Everett as Prince Charming; Justin Timberlake as Artie; Julie Andrews as Queen Lillian; John Cleese as King Harold; Eric Idle as Merlin; John Krasinkski as Lancelot; Ian McShane as Captain Hook; Cheri Oteri as Sleeping Beauty; Amy Poehler as Snow White; Amy Sedaris as Cinderella; Maya Rudolph as Rapunzel; Regis Philbin as Mabel; Larry King as Doris