Cast aside your doubts: the fourth and final chapter in the series isn’t too bad, although I must admit I may be slightly influenced by the fact that I got my tickets for free through work (I probably wouldn’t have watched it otherwise). It’s also mercifully short, with Shrek dealing with the consequences of signing a magical contract with Rumpelstiltskin and dealing with his domestic problems, all in a brisk 93 minutes.
The contract grants Shrek one day where he can return to being a real ogre, loathed and feared by the humans, and in exchange, the trickster Rumpelstiltskin takes one day from Shrek’s past. Naturally, there’s a built in gotcha, and the day that “Rumpel” takes is the day on which Shrek was born, thereby changing everything – Shrek never rescues Fiona, and her parents sign the rights to the land of Far Far Away over to the trickster in the misplaced hope that he could help save their daughter.
You could say that Forever After is a reboot of sorts. Shrek starts out alone all over again, and the movie loses all of the excess baggage accumulated through the earlier sequels. Other favourites like Donkey and Puss-in-Boots are also given clean slates, so that even the occasional rehashed joke felt fresh again.
But it’s not all good news. The original Shrek kicked off the franchise as a kids movie with adult smarts – the inverse fairytale of the ugly ogre who turns out to be the hero – but as the series progressed, the grown-up humour and story elements encroached further and further, until the point where we now have an adult movie that has the occasional amusing bit for kids. It’s still presented as a kids movie (especially with the pointless, gimmicky 3D), but the main theme deals with Shrek’s mid-life crisis, and there’s a scene where sexy witches dance to Beasty Boys music in a pseudo nightclub. Riiiiiiight.
Dreamworks just doesn’t get it. The original Shrek was charming and original, but Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third proved that they had no idea why, by dishing up smarm dressed up as charm. In spite of the above gripes though, I enjoyed this chapter more than the previous two because this time around I didn’t feel so much like as if the movie was watching me back with a smug grin, constantly digging me with its elbows going “Geddit? Geddit?”
And there’s no arguing with free.