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Swamp Fever

film-screkHero channels inner ogre in fun, fizzy 'Shrek Forever After'
It's a wonderful life for everybody's favorite green ogre in Shrek Forever After. Until he screws things up and gets a taste of what life would have been like for his loved ones if he'd never been born in this fourth installment of the fractured fairy tale franchise. Directed by Mike Mitchell, this entertaining chapter in the series is also the first one to be shot and processed in 3-D (although you might wonder if effects like projectile baby drool are worth all the bother).

In the new story, Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) worries that domestic bliss in Far Far AwayLand with his loving ogre bride, Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and their three adorable babies, is cramping his style. He longs to be "a real ogre" again, scaring the bejeebees out of the villagers; now that they all treat him like a pet and ask him to autograph their pitchforks, he feels like a “jolly green joke." But in his Faustian bargain with demonic little Rumplestiltskin (a bravura comic vocal performance from Walt Dohrn) for one blissful day of irresponsible ogre-ing, he also inadvertently signs away a day out of his own past. The catch is, it turns out to be the day he was born.

Now Shrek is trapped in an altered universe where "Stiltskin" runs the kingdom with his tribe of witch henchwomen (guest voices include Jane Lynch, Kathi Griffin, and Mary Kay Place), oppress the villagers, and round up ogres for slaves. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is a beast of burden, and Puss (Antonio Banderas) is a pampered house pet too fat for his boots. With no Shrek to rescue her (back in the first movie), Fiona has busted herself out of her tower prison and become the leader of an ogre underground movement to resist Stiltskin's tyranny.

The flip side to this girl-power subplot is that Fiona no longer believes in True Love's Kiss—the only thing that will put their world back right. Shrek has only until the end of the day to win the heart of this independent warrior-ogress and maker her fall in love with him all over again. Otherwise, he'll evaporate into thin air at dawn and Far Far Away will be under Stiltskin's thumb forever after.

This movie doesn't have much to add to the Shrek canon; it's mostly a "what if…?" tale where the characters get to play different versions of themselves. The fizziest fun, as usual, is in the silly little throwaway visual details and the acute pop song cues (perhaps a tad overused here) that keep the viewer chuckling throughout. (Shrek saunters happily through the streets, terrifying villagers, to the strains of Karen Carpenter's "Top of the World," then flops down in a handy pig sty to make a mud angel.) Rumplestiltskin's wigs are a subplot unto themselves, from a white powdered Amadeus look for formal occasions, to a film_shrek_forever_afterflame-red Don King-style "angry wig," to a topiary number clipped and shaped to resemble his pet golden goose. Clever writing, in-jokes, and camaraderie keep the entire soufflé puffing merrily along.

SHREK FOREVER AFTER ★★★

With the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, and Antonio Banderas. Written by Josh Klauser and Darren Lemke. Directed by Mike Mitchell. A DreamWorks release. Rated PG. 93 minutes. Watch film trailer >>>

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