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Shrek the Third DVD Review

Shrek the Third movie poster Shrek the Third

Theatrical Release: May 18, 2007 / Running Time: 93 Minutes / Rating: PG

Director: Chris Miller

Voice Cast: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona), Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots), Julie Andrews (Queen Lillian), John Cleese (King Harold), Rupert Everett (Prince Charming), Eric Idle (Merlin), Justin Timberlake (Arthur "Artie" Pendragon), Susanne Blakeslee (Evil Queen), Cody Cameron (Pinocchio, Three Pigs), Larry King (Doris), Christopher Knights (Blind Mice), John Krasinski (Lancelot), Ian McShane (Captain Hook), Cheri Oteri (Sleeping Beauty, Actress), Regis Philbin (Mabel), Amy Poehler (Snow White), Seth Rogen (Ship Captain), Maya Rudolph (Rapunzel), Amy Sedaris (Cinderella), Conrad Vernon (Gingerbread Man), Aron Warner (Wolf)

Buy Shrek the Third from Amazon.com: Widescreen DVD Fullscreen DVD Blu-ray


In 2004, Shrek 2 became the third highest-grossing film in the history of North America, earning a whopping $441 million and change. After that, DreamWorks Animation would have to be either highly principled or mad not to make another sequel.
Fortunately for those wanting to see what happens next in the universe loosely inspired by William Steig's 1990 picture book, the studio proved to be neither; like its record-setting antecedent, Shrek the Third reached theaters three summers later. Arriving in between Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Third did its part to make the year's busiest movie season known as "the summer of threequels."

This latest chapter in the series of irreverent CG-animated blockbusters quickly poses three potential plot lines. Our leading married couple of ogres, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz), get a taste of their royalty in having to stand in for Fiona's parents, the frog King (John Cleese) and human Queen (Julie Andrews), on account of the King being ill. There's Fiona's wish to have children, a prospect which terrifies Shrek. Meanwhile, commanding little respect as an actor in dinner theatre, the down and out villain of Shrek 2, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), hatches a plan for revenge. The film decides it likes all three ideas and follows down an amalgam of the paths.

Shrek and Fiona aren't comfortable with royal formalwear. Shrek has his hands and most of the rest of his body full with baby ogres. Don't worry; it's just a nightmare sequence.

Reluctant to be next in line for the throne, Shrek sets out for Worcestershire Academy with his two sidekicks, the wise-cracking Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and the gallant sword-toting feline Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas). They hope to find Fiona's cousin Arthur, the King's only other heir. They do encounter the teenaged Arthur, or as he prefers "Artie" (Justin Timberlake), an unsuccessful jouster who doesn't fit into his high school's various (apparently timeless) cliques. Getting him to accompany them back to Far Far Away for a life of power and privilege, however, proves to be a quest more difficult than direct. On the journey, Shrek is haunted by Fiona's recent announcement that she's pregnant.

Back home, Fiona is joined by a group of ditzy fairy tale princesses (voiced primarily by past and present female cast members of "Saturday Night Live") plus manly Ugly Stepsister Doris (Larry King) for a baby shower, which is interrupted by the vengeful Prince Charming and the band of villains he's managed to rally together.

Shrek the Third feels a lot like more of the same, following its predecessors' formats very closely. To a large degree, that's expected. It wouldn't be a Shrek movie without recognizable figures from folklore behaving in quirky contemporary manners. But the novelty of this has certainly worn off a bit and in the interests of both retaining fan favorites and introducing new personalities, this third film feels a little crammed with characters all vying for the same kind of calculated jokes. These jokes remain sufficiently diverting. On DVD, however, you're much more likely to imagine or recall theatrical audience laughter than to experience similarly contagious outbursts among your smaller group.

On the boat ride to Far Far Away, Shrek talks up the throne to Fiona's cousin Artie, who looks and sounds like Justin Timberlake. No, it's not a Disney Princess Tea Party: Ugly Step Sister Doris joins Snow White, Cinderella, and a highly fatigued Sleeping Beauty at Fiona's baby shower.

It is not just the fundamental tone where this sequel plays close to its warmly-received precursors. There's the montage set to an independent pop song, a halt-grinding conclusion that's overly confident of its poignancy, the requisite action sequences, and brushes with drama. I haven't seen the first two films enough to be sure of it,
but the impression that I get is that if you were to log the runtimes of each of the aforementioned elements, they would correspond to similar instances in the earlier films. Such adherence to a formula is excusable for a daily TV show or even a weekly one. A movie that costs $160 million and three years to make can't be forgiven as easily.

Still, while lacking the originality and freshness of the first two films, the effect is more or less the same. Shrek the Third is light, quite entertaining, and somewhat forgettable. Having seen nearly every computer-animated film made, I would rank Shrek and Shrek 2 near the top of the second tier, just below the fine films of Pixar and on par with DreamWorks' other successes (like Antz, Over the Hedge). Shrek the Third lowers the bar a little; it's around the middle of the pack, which with the increase in quantity and decrease in quality of all-CGI flicks, still means it compares favorably with the medium's other recent entries.

How does Shrek the Third pale next to its predecessors? It's complacent, not as inspired, and lacking the standout sequences and ideas. Some of the voice actors, like Justin Timberlake's prominent turn, strike the viewer as being cast for name recognition over value-adding performances. I'm not even completely convinced that saving tens of millions of dollars by recasting the lead parts to career voiceover artists would have a negative effect on the film's artistic success. On the other hand, some of the cast members do have fun with their parts, like Monty Python's Eric Idle as Merlin. Every plus seems to be countered by a negative, though. Even if you've really enjoyed the first 80 minutes, you may downgrade your opinion due to the film's last-minute effort to meet its flatulence quotient.

The gag gets more mileage with sound, but Shrek's two sidekicks Puss in Boots and Donkey switch bodies on account of one of Merlin's spells. Prince Charming subjects his largest audience yet (and a shackled Shrek) to his questionable singing and theatre skills.

Surprising positively no one, Shrek the Third made a lot of money. The film has grossed $321 million domestically and another $473 M overseas. Like its fellow May third installments, that marked a drop from the previous installment's US earnings, a phenomenon one can't help but suspect is traceable to the idea to open three titans in one month. In terms of North American earnings, Third was equidistant from the higher-grossing Spider-Man 3 and the lesser At World's End. The movie also narrowly surpassed major summer draws Transformers and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, while handily defeating animated competition Ratatouille and The Simpsons Movie.

Though critical and moviegoer reaction was more tepid here than on the first two films, dollars speak louder than words and plans are moving forward on a variety of projects for the Shrek franchise. A half-hour made-for-TV Christmas special, entitled Shrek the Halls, is set to debut on ABC on November 28th. 2010 is supposed to bring both Shrek Goes Fourth and the feature-length spin-off Puss in Boots: The Story of an Ogre Killer, while DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg has claimed that a fifth and final film is in the works as well.

Six months after opening in American cinemas, Shrek the Third came to DVD and HD DVD earlier this week. The studio refused to provide advance copies, which is why this review was published subsequent to the street date.

Buy Shrek the Third on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French),
Dolby Digital Surround (English, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Closed Captioned
Release Date: November 13, 2007
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Black Keepcase with Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Reformatted Fullscreen DVD
and on HD DVD

VIDEO and AUDIO

Like most of its CG-animated kin, Shrek the Third moves from the creators' computers to DVD with no middle man mucking up the intended look. This 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is free from any elemental flaws and the disc is light enough to ensure that compression causes no concern. While you can take the aesthetic values of this film and its predecessors to task (and some have), the DVD quality will satisfy all but those who are probably already buying HD DVDs anyway.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack musters no complaints either. It doesn't have the impact of a DTS mix or a more aggressive animated film, but it delivers an appropriate and plenty active aural experience all the same. French and Spanish speakers are treated to both subtitles and dubs in these languages.

Isolde of Ireland is one of thirty supporting characters given attention in the interactive Worcestershire Academy Yearbook. If airborne eyes strike you as more than mildly funny-strange, then you might just think the Big Green Goofs reel is hilarious. Arthur sweats Guinevere in this deleted lunchroom scene, but your eyes are likely to stay on the bottom pitch videos.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

A modest selection of bonus features begins with an interactive Worcestershire Academy Yearbook that profiles 30 characters from the movie's high school in ten different (mostly extracurricular) groups. Each student's page features a signature, a photo, and audio responses to "Clubs/Interests", "Dedication", "Bequeath", "Greatest Desire", and "Quote." It's evident that a lot of time went into making it (a fair amount of time is required just to see it all) and I'm not certain it was well-spent. On the one hand, we get to better know characters barely seen in the film (if at all). On the other, there aren't really any laughs to be had for those not well-versed in Arthurian legend.
The shallow cheerleaders, dorky nerds, and hard-headed jocks don't rise above tired stereotypes, though efficient the design isn't all that fun, and major voice actors fail to reprise their parts. The feature lends itself best to selective sampling.

"Big Green Goofs" (1:55) is a collection of undesired effects encountered in the computer animation process and deemed worth preserving here. Unstable body parts abound, but it's no substitute for live-action bloopers or even one of Pixar's old manufactured outtakes reels.

Three Lost Scenes (18:20) are presented in a split-screen format which usually divides the screen between a story artist's pitch, an individual story board, and the audience of crew members. It's quite tough to imagine the sequences as they would have appeared in the film because the viewer's eyes are drawn to the personality pitching more than what they're pitching. Each of the three scenes features Guinevere, a character practically missing from the final film. I would imagine the latter two -- a lunchroom standoff and a Cyrano de Bergerac homage -- were deleted for being too hackneyed, while the long first sequence (involving a dream and a dragon fight) is just a bit chaotic. There's no commentary or introduction to confirm my suspicions.

"Donkey Dance" is a simple 30-second clip of Donkey performing an uninspired twist on Men Without Hats' "The Safety Dance."

"Saturday Night Live" ladies Maya Rudolph and Cheri Oteri have fun looking at storyboards of their 'Shrek 3' princess characters in "Meet the Cast." Like the other three characters, Puss in Boots gives parenting tips from experience in Shrek's Guide to Parenthood. "Tech of Shrek" informs us there's cutting-edge technique to baby vomit.

Feeling promotional in nature, the featurette "Meet the Cast" (10:40) covers the actors lending their voices to the film. Say what you want about DreamWorks believing highly-paid stars draw people into CGI films, but this welcome piece offers a winning blend of interview comments and recording session clips. Specific attention is given to the newcomers, particularly the "Saturday Night Live"-spawned princesses, and to the contributions of a high school band and cheerleaders.

"Shrek's Guide to Parenthood" provides 5 parenting tips each from Donkey, Puss in Boots, Pinocchio, and Gingy. A simple mix of recycled animation and on-screen text comprises the lessons, which run 30 seconds a piece and naturally reflect the characters dispatching them.

"Tech of Shrek" (9:53) covers the computer animation process, specifically how technology advances have resulted in enhanced detail on the sequels. Hair, clothing, elemental effects, crowd scene characters, and environments all get discussed in brisk fashion with production clips, animator sound bites, and a bit of shameless logo-dropping.

DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox serves up musical sequences from six of the studio's CGI films: "I'm a Believer" (Shrek), "Livin' La Vida Loca" (Shrek 2), "Car Wash" (Shark Tale), "I Like to Move It" (Madagascar), Ben Folds Five's "Heist" (Over the Hedge), and, most enjoyably, "Dancing with Myself" (Flushed Away). Running 1-2 minutes each, the excerpts are thinly-veiled ads, but I suppose some who wouldn't have watched just trailers may check the section out and, if they don't already own all the movies, enjoy it.

Next, we find five Previews. The first three are the same that play upon inserting the disc (and can only be individually skipped), showcasing Bee Movie (bet you didn't see that coming!), Kung Fu Panda, and The Spiderwick Chronicles. Rounding out the section: a 2-minute spot for Shrek and Shrek 2 that merely repeat the songs from the previous feature and a DVD promo for Charlotte's Web (2006). Lamely, Shrek the Third's trailers aren't included here.

You could "Learn the Donkey Dance", but it's a lot less fun than the Safety Dance. Puss in Boots and Pinocchio square off in "Tickle Fight", one of five Royal Tournament included among the DVD-ROM Shrektivities. "Shrek Shmash Ups" lets you juggle four elements as you wish in piecing together a silly Shrek the Third sequence.

The remaining DVD-Video features are found in the DreamWorks Kids (DWK) Section.

"Merlin's Magic Crystal Ball" is the set-top equivalent of a Magic 8-Ball. Poorly-looped footage and a lack of original animation keep it from being much fun.

"How to Be Green" (4:00) adds to the current trend of environmental preaching on family-friendly DVDs.
This one provides a number of tips for saving the planet, like "take 2-minute showers" and "keep your house chilly". I'm ever so slightly paraphrasing.

"Learn the Donkey Dance" (1:39) repeats the 30-second clip shown earlier, then repeats it again with spoken and on-screen directions for you to dance along, then repeats it again without the narrator.

Included among the DVD-ROM "Shrektivities" are a few dozen pages of Printables: Coloring Pages, Parenting and Ogre Yoga guides, Merlin's Magic tricks, Green activities and labels, and Game Ideas. There are also five simple but fun Flash-animated, movie-themed Shrek Royal Tournament Games. "Eyeball Dropper" is a cross between Snood and Tetris, "Captain Shrek" finds you avoiding whales and whirlpools while sailing the seas, "Gingy's Dreamz" has you racing across a colorfully-decorated rainbow against fellow gingerbread men, "Long Leap the King" lets you move from one lily pad to another, without all being stationary, and "Tickle Fight" pits Puss in Boots versus Pinocchio in an entertaining G-rated take on Mortal Kombat.

Finally, "Shrek Shmash Ups" is an application which lets you play editor, stringing together movie clips, borders/on-screen graphics, music, and sound effects. It'd be more fun if it let you incorporate your own pictures, video, and audio; as such it's not as amusing as the original's "Shrek ReVoice Studio" feature.

The Main Menu leads one to think, "Those are some pretty good production values for a hastily-planned amateur theatre show." Puss and Donkey dance on a boat on the Special Features menus.

It's tough to say if the somewhat light slate of serious bonus features is meant to increase the appeal of an expanded DVD edition or merely the concurrently-issued HD DVD that also supplies a storyboard version of the film and some Internet-enabled extras like a trivia track and character guide.
DreamWorks Animation
Either way, the lack of an audio commentary registers as pretty surprising at a time when many films (including Shrek 2) are treated to two or more. Of course, the chances that this is the only version of Shrek the Third ever released to DVD seem miniscule.

The main menu features a dramatically-scored, subtly-animated view of the set from the climactic play which somehow gives off a Pirates of the Caribbean ride feel. Submenus take you closer to different parts of the stage and employ characters in lively ways.

A Shrek head silhouette on the main menu leads you to think you've found some nifty Easter Egg, but it's really just the Shrek and Shrek 2 musical excerpts encountered multiple times elsewhere. It would make more sense if Shrek the Third was being given the hard sell on the predecessors' DVDs; if you've bought this one, it seems safe you've got the other two already or are at least aware that they exist and can also be purchased.

In direct contrast to most big studio DVDs and the most direct competition, there's not a single thing to be found inside the case, or at least there isn't in my review copy. The keepcase artwork is reproduced with little change in a cardboard slipcover that features a bit of embossing on front. A sticker on the slipcover nets you something free (most likely some digital photo prints) in an "everybody's a winner" sweepstakes.

Princess Fiona (who actually stays fat and ugly throughout this entire movie) leads the pack as the royal ladies get tough. Donkey, Shrek, and Puss in Boots are about to find what they're looking for inside the Worcestershire Academy gymnasium.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

I've grown fairly ambivalent towards the Shrek movies and Shrek the Third doesn't change that. It's pretty bizarre to think that in six years, DreamWorks' three films stand as one of the most profitable franchises in cinema history, with a collective box office gross of multiple billions of dollars, not to mention the surely robust merchandise and DVD sales. The films definitely don't seem creative enough for public approval that loud, especially this third one which registers as the series' weakest. Still, part of me can understand and appreciate how the movies have done so well; nearly everyone can find something entertaining about them, from the spoofed fairy tale setting to the contemporary brand of comedy. They're not great films -- they could use some better taste, the free-for-all feel is clearly and rigidly manufactured, and I don't think they'll hold up especially well. But they're definitely good ones with the power to divert a wide audience for the time being.

Shrek the Third is given a respectable DVD release. Picture and sound are predictably terrific. While there's certainly room for more substantive bonus features (like a commentary), most of what's here -- 20 minutes of featurettes, 18 of deleted scenes, various short video pieces, and DVD-ROM games -- wields entertainment value. The disc isn't worth paying a lot or going out of your way to own, but if you've got the superior first two Shrek DVDs, this one makes for decent company on your shelf.

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Related Reviews:
DreamWorks Animation: Shrek the Halls Bee Movie Kung Fu Panda Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
Ratatouille Meet the Robinsons Surf's Up TMNT Monsters, Inc. Chicken Little Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Summer Blockbusters: Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer Evan Almighty Transformers Knocked Up

Fairy Tales:
The Princess Bride: 20th Anniversary Edition Sleeping Beauty Pinocchio Cinderella
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Disney Princess Enchanted Tales: Follow Your Dreams

The Voice Cast of Shrek the Third:
Norbit The Haunted Mansion Mulan Dreamgirls Valiant Mr. Toad's Wild Ride
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Part 3s: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

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Reviewed November 15, 2007.



Text copyright 2007 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.