When we last saw the giant green ogre, he and his true love Fiona had settled happily into their tree-trunk home with their new triplets. Their ensuing life is idyllic, even for ogres—happy days filled with laughing baby ogres, sun-filled mornings, and lazy dinners with Donkey and his dragon wife (and their flying donkey children).
But all is not well in the gurgling swamp. The quotidian domesticated life doesn't fully agree with newly minted family man Shrek, who misses the glory days when his roars would scare villagers away instead of making them applaud in delight. He longs for a time when he could wallow in mud, undisturbed by fairy tale tour buses—when he could belch, holler, and generally act like an ogre. He pines for the days when "things made sense."
Rumpelstiltskin—who, we discover, has been harboring a bitter grudge against Shrek for many years—catches wind of the ogre's discontent and offers him a deal. Shrek will get a whole day of wallowing, belching, roaring, and scaring villagers; Rumpelstiltskin, in return, will take just one day of Shrek's life—a day from his childhood, a day he wouldn't even remember. How much trouble could that be?
Thanks to time-travel movies, we all know that changing one day in the past changes everything in the future. But Shrek apparently doesn't. He agrees to the offer—and suddenly, Rumpelstiltskin is king of a withered, ugly Far Far Away. Witches populate the castle. Donkey doesn't recognize Shrek. Puss is morbidly obese. The swamp is a dry, barren place.
Rumpelstilstkin, it turns out, craftily stole the day of Shrek's birth, and therefore Shrek was never born. And yet, here he is, star of the movie—but unrecognized by other characters. He exists, but doesn't. The filmmakers never explain how that's possible, but hey, it is the first time ogres have time traveled; I guess they're still working out the logistical warts and kinks.
Because of Shrek's (non)existence, Fiona had to rescue herself from the tower and now, clad in armor and wielding some fierce weaponry, she is the leader of the underground ogre resistance against the tyranny of Rumpelstiltskin and his witches. She has never seen Shrek before and isn't impressed by his bumbling wiles. But the only way Shrek can defeat the villain, restore his life, save Far Far Away, and get his family back is to find one thing by sunrise. You guessed it: true love's kiss.
After the dismal Shrek the Third, the final chapter of the ogre's saga is refreshingly watchable: funny, sweet, sometimes clever—even wholesome. This last installment once again plays fast and loose with more fairy tale mythology, but also remixes its own previous storylines. The same players re-tread the same themes (love conquers all, greed never pays, et cetera) and add a few others (be grateful for what you have, love your kids, make nice with the neighbors). Throw in some bombastic song-and-dance numbers and everyone ends up happily ever after.
Shrek's fairy-tale world has always been lush and colorful, but most people will opt to see it in 3-D this time, and that's a good choice—this sort of fantastical animated film lends itself brilliantly to extra depth and dimension. It's also pretty funny, with enough jokes to keep both children and adults laughing and a few one-liners destined to make it into pop culture.
But ultimately, this Shrek's story, while not particularly original (see It's a Wonderful Lifeand The Family Man, for starters), is what makes it work. The dull reality of domestic life as an ogre dad—and the accompanying discontent—is hardly exclusive to ogres, a fact that parents in the audience probably won't miss.
Fairy tales usually let the princess and knight (ogre or not) ride off into the sunset. But those who expect their real-life fairy tale to always be new and exciting will be disappointed, and the key—as Fiona points out—is to know when you have everything, and be grateful. It's a worthy conclusion to the tale. We can all live happily ever after.Discussion starters
- Fiona chides Shrek for not recognizing the gifts that he has been given in his family and friends. Have you ever overlooked the gifts you've been given?
- Read Numbers 11 and Exodus 16. God's people often forget the gifts he gives them while longing for the past—and forgetting what it was really like. How does God deal with this? What can we see about God's grace in these situations?
- What do you want your "happily ever after" to look like? What can you be grateful for now?
The Family Corner
Shrek Forever After is rated PG for mild action, some rude humor and brief language. There's always been some rude humor in this series (it is, after all, about ogres). This installment features some innocuous bathroom humor and a few of those cross-dressing animals. Shrek gets very angry. Some children might be frightened by the witches and the cartoon adventure violence; the squeamish will probably object to the eyeball martinis. Otherwise, this is a pretty clean romp through Far Far Away.
Photos © Dreamworks Animation
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