DreamWorks Animation’s most successful franchise finally ends with this fourth chapter. The movie takes stock of everything that has happened to Shrek by placing him in an alternate reality, created by the twitchy trickster Rumpelstiltskin, in which he was never born. This darker story focuses more on action and character than on humor, and it allows Shrek and his friends to be their most heroic and sympathetic since the original film.

“Shrek Forever After” is a serviceable finale that emphasizes the series’ strengths and flaws. The main characters are as appealing as ever, largely because of their voice actors’ seasoned yet still likable performances. However, the anachronistic pop culture humor remains as hit-and-miss as ever. These modern jokes are less numerous than in the other sequels, but they still beg the question of whether they will date these movies. The film also seems the most chaotic, using quick editing and rarely stationary cinematography that render the proceedings somewhat exhausting.

The best moments occur when the alternate universe offers variations on jokes and scenes from the other movies. These details, which range from appearances of old props to direct quotations, are easy to recognize and help tie the series together into one story. A few recollections do rely too much on fond memories of the other movies (“I’m a Believer” is far less magical here than it was in the first “Shrek”). Still, “Shrek Forever After” is almost like a yearbook in how it allows fans to view highlights (albeit twisted ones) of their years in the kingdom of Far Far Away. It may not be as special as the first two movies, but it is a mostly satisfying conclusion.

First published in The Coastland Times


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