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Being king isn’t for everyone – especially if you’re an ornery ogre who smells like the shallow end of a swamp. When Shrek married Fiona, the last thing he wanted was to rule Far Far Away, but when his father-in-law, King Harold, suddenly croaks, Shrek is quickly fitted for the crown. Now, unless the reluctant would-be king can find a suitable replacement, he’ll be royally screwed for the rest of his days.
As if Shrek didn’t have enough on his plate, Princess Fiona has another little surprise on the way. Reeling from the duties of running a kingdom and impending fatherhood, Shrek sets off on a quest to find the only other possible heir to the throne, Fiona’s long-lost cousin Artie, a medieval high school outcast. While the ogre is away, his old nemesis Prince Charming rears his handsome head and returns to the kingdom of Far Far Away with redemption on his shallow little mind. Even with Donkey and the ever-so-suave Puss In Boots by their side, it’s going to take an ogre-sized effort – and a whole lot of help from Fiona and her band of princesses – for Shrek and Artie to save the day and find their own “Happily Ever Afters.”
When Shrek arrived in the summer of 2001, it was a surprise. Computer animation was utterly dominated by Pixar, and no one else had even come close to making a dent in it. DreamWorks didn’t just make a dent with Shrek, they stomped in, beat everyone up, threw them out, and sat down in Pixar’s chair. What really caught a lot of people’s attention was how willing the movie was to be adult. Toy Story has a lot of adult themes, but it never skirted edgier adult innuendo the way Shrek does. Shrek did it in a way that had adults rolling in the aisle, while all the naughty stuff went right over their kids’ head. The perfect family film, enjoyable on multiple levels and full of fun fart jokes and jabs at the then bloated, floating corpse of once might Disney. What’s not to love?
The second movie upped the ante further, adding even better characters and expanding on the best jokes from the first film. By then Shrek had become a worldwide phenomenon, and Shrek 2 is now one of the biggest movies of all time. Be prepared for Shrek 3 to kick the ass of Pirates and become not just one of the biggest, but the biggest. Anything is possible where DreamWorks’ fat, green ogre is concerned.
The only major difference this time is the departure of director Andrew Adamson, who abandoned his ogre franchise to run off and make Narnia movies about talking lions. If you doubt how much of an impact Adamason had in making Shrek what it is, just look at how successful Narnia has been. The guy clearly knows his way around a family friendly blockbuster.
He’s replaced by co-directors Chris Miller and Raman Hui. Hui was the supervising animator on Shrek and Shrek 2, so it’s likely he picked up a few tricks from Adamson. Chris Miller did some of the writing on both of the previous Shrek movies, but for both Hui and Miller this is their first time directing. I doubt DreamWorks is worried.
By now the formula has been so well established, it should be easy to implement it. Shrek movies are topical and now, a product of whatever is current in pop culture and comedy, blended into a big swampy bowl. Some people bash the films for that, but for me it’s part of why embrace them. Maybe thirty years from now it will leave them dated, but for now there’s nothing wrong with having a movie that’s plugged in to the immediacy of the world around you. Shrek will be, as always, more plugged in than any other family movie you’re likely to see. Don’t be surprised if for Shrek the Third, Donkey discovers the iPod.