I know this may seem incredibly belated since the film cam out in May, however I only saw Shrek Forever After for the first time yesterday, so I thought I'd best share my thoughts and write up the second full A113Animation Review.
Having not seen the film up until now, I had lots of time to here a very mixed batch of reviews, the general consensus of which seemed to be - whilst no masterpiece - it's a really fun film, well, not to put too fine a point on it; I'll be the judge of that, so enjoy:
Shrek Forever After is the fourth - and supposedly final film - in the franchise that put DreamWorks Animation on the map. Simply put, Shrek 1 was fantastic, one of my favourite animated films of all time, likewise, Shrek 2 was also really, really good... but Shrek the Third was just awful. I literally loathed every single aspect of Shrek the Third, it was stupid, repetitive, boring and annoying, so you can understand why I was sceptical about a fourth Shrek, since it's been a downwards slope since number 1 in 2001. However, (most of) these fears were soon diminished.
Now, the most important aspect to any film, is - without a doubt - the story, you can have a hilarious, side splitting film, but with no story, there's no point in it and you've just paid 10 bucks to see a very long sketch show. This is an idea that seems to have eluded DreamWorks more times than not (*ahem* Bee Movie *ahem*), however when DreamWorks do it well, they do it great - How to Train Your Dragon springs to mind. Shrek Forever After is certainly no How to Train Your Dragon in terms of story, however that's not to say that the story is bad, in fact, it's quite good (although the moral of the story seems to be almost exactly the same as the previous 3 films'). The start of the film is very good, it's focused (with a good ole classic story book framing tool) and quickly and effectively sets up the motives and plot points of the film. The first 20 minutes or so of the film are really good and did a great job of reminding me why I loved the first 2 films in the first place - and is easily better than Shrek 3 by that point. However, it is there it begins to tail off...
Anyway, in contrast to my previous gripes about the story being a tad over simplified and not "deep" enough, it was actually quite emotional and had some genuinely touching It's a Wonderful Life moments, probably due in no small part to the fact that it's the last in the series. There's just something profoundly magical about the film.
Besides story, the next most important thing is characters, fortunately for Shrek, the franchise has some of the funniest and most beloved characters outside of Toy Story, and this certainly served it well. The fact that Shrek Forever After relied heavily on humorous twists on already beloved established characters (i.e. fat Puss and ignorant Donkey), as previously these characters reminded me why I loved the Shrek franchise (sans the Third) in the first place. There's even a couple of great new side characters, I particularly loved Cookie, the chef - that sort of thing just cracks me up - these enhanced an already stellar cast of characters (that was blissfully absent of Arthur from Shrek the Third)
However, one gripe I have with the film is the animation. This may confuse a few of you as the animation looks great, vibrant and detailed in the majority of the film. However, I thought the human animation was terrible; the people (particularly the King and Queen) looked plastic, like toys and were similar level animation to Ice Age in 2002. I just don't understand how this happened, the human animation in How to Train Your Dragon, and even Megamind, were fantastic, whereas the humans here were just disappointing!
Now, another area that was very well done was parallelism with previous installments, such as Shrek visiting Fiona's tower from Shrek 1 or Donkey asking Shrek if they can keep Puss from Shrek 2, it just was a wonderful added bonus for those of us who have invested so much in the series and a great way to emotionally make up for some of the wrongs committed by Shrek the Third. The parallelisms with previous films also helped to show just how much the characters have changed in nearly 10 years, which was, again, very touching, to see this character maturity unfold before you.
The good thing about Shrek Forever After is that it was a great end to the series, far more akin to the first couple of Shreks than if they had just left it with the pitiful third installment. It greatly rounds off a ten year journey, and it has been one of ups and downs, and that, provided a lot of emotion that the story failed to. Another great aspect to the ending, was the fact that it ended Shrek, the franchise, not just Shrek 4, it FINALLY closed the book on this franchise that seemed to be wheezing back in 2007 (at least until Puss in Boots, which is technically not a sequel... damn loopholes to hell). Also, how apt it is that the film ends with I'm a Believer, as I'm glad that I can once again believe in DreamWorks' ability to make a decent sequel and see a final, good Shrek film. Sure, it's no Toy Story 3 ending in terms of emotional depth or story or character maturity, you won't cry or well up, but you will feel touched and that's living proof that there's till some magic left in Shrek.
With all this in mind, I would give Shrek Forever After a very solid 7.5/10, don't go seeing this film for its story or emotionality, but just go see it because you owe it to Shrek and co., you'll definitely enjoy it.
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