06-02-10-shrek4_poster.gifYou know how awful Shrek The Third was? So depressingly awful that Ididn’t even really plan to see Shrek Forever After (93 minutes). From acharming ogre-meets-ogre love story the Shrek franchise slid steadilydownhill over a pile of clichés and story retreads until the high pointof the last movie were the end credits.

Happily, the latest entry recalls the heyday of the loveableOgre living his own special brand of fractured fairy tale. Althoughthere is not much to discover that hasn’t been discovered morethan once over the course of the three previous movies, at leastthe sweetness is back.

The tale opens with the story of when Shrek (Mike Myers)met Fiona (Cameron Diaz), which segues into the story of justwhat Fiona’s parents were doing when they discovered thattheir daughter had been “cured.” It turns out that King Harold(John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews) were gettingready to make a very bad decision, and only the wonderfulnews of their daughter’s rescue prevented catastrophe.

Much, much later, Shrek is becoming disillusioned withboth the life of a settled down family ogre and the paparazzo’sobsession with his every word and gesture. So, oncemore, Shrek is dealing with emotional problems stemmingfrom his inability to connect appropriately with thosearound him. At this point, it is all very retread (albeit verycute retread). Send Shrek to a therapist, get that Ogresome Prozac, and we’re out.

But then things start to get interesting. The cutesinessof the opening scenes quickly shifts to the introductionof Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohrn), a much bettervillain than whoever it was from the third movie. As anyone familiarwith fairy tales should know, but what somehow escapes Shrek’s attention,is that Rumplestiltskin shouldn’t be trusted. How he missed that fact wheneveryone he knows seems well aware of it is beside the point. The real issue iswhy Shrek, a comparatively worldly ogre, is so easily taken in by a little manin curly shoes who grins like a used car salesman, and does everything buttwirl a black mustache while laughing evilly to telegraph his generallack of trustworthiness.

Of course, if Shrek wasn’t so easily fooledthe movie would be pretty short. This takesus into a world where he is footloose andfancy free. At least, until he realizes thatmagical little men don’t always have our bestinterests at heart.

Following his moment of clarity he isstalked by some tricked out witches and meetsDonkey (Eddie Murphy) again for the first time.Rinse, Wash, Repeat. So many sitcoms have donethis to death, but the whole It’s Wonderful Lifepredictability of it all never wears too thin sincethere are so many fun characters to reintroduce.

As shown in the previews, Puss-in-Boots isnow a pampered housecat and Fiona is a redheadedValkyrie type. As in previous Shrek films,a few new characters are introduced, but recurringcharacters such as Dragon and Gingerbread Man arenot neglected.

For those of you keeping track, try to pick outMad Man Jon Hamm, The Office’s Craig Robinson,and Kathy Griffin. For those of you not keeping track,just enjoy the fact that Shrek is ending ona high note instead of with the completelyinferior Shrek The Third.

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