Shrek, the fairytale has ended

2010-07-19 00:00

MY experience of taking small people to the movies has taught me that they like films that have plenty of action, a strong story line that’s not too hard to follow, not too scary, and the more slapstick and/or gross humour the better. As they get older, they like more or less of these elements as appropriate.

Grown-ups are supposed to be able to enjoy more complex material that satisfies their intellect. Judging by the success of the Schuster movies, I have my doubts.

The term a “kids’ movie” has never made sense to me. It’s almost impossible that any movie audience anywhere, ever, will consist entirely of children. So what’s a filmmaker to do?

Animated moviemakers have the answer and the success of their work depends on the fine balance of two elements: components that appeal to the “kids” (whatever that means) and things to satisfy the audience segment called adult (whatever that means).

Shrek I did this brilliantly. It had just the right balance of action, humour and plot to make it a favourite for my children and me. In my book, it was a very hard act to follow.

So what of Shrek Forever After? The ogres’ triplets are turning one and Dad finds himself sucked into a vortex of parenting, longing to be “a real ogre” again. To go back to his carefree bachelorhood, he makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin that has disastrous consequences. It sets up the story line and action that follow.

This time the team at Dreamworks has fallen off the fine line of balance into adult territory. The story is like a medieval morality play. The moral is that “choices have consequences”. Sometimes they are disastrous, setting up the question: is redemption possible?

Like a morality play, much of the movie is dark and menacing. Rumpelstiltskin is as evil as any character in an age-rated movie and his cohort of witches are scary. The Pied Piper is a bounty hunter and could have stepped out of the adult movie of the same name.

Grown-ups will love the sound track that includes songs from The Carpenters, Carole King, Neil Diamond and Stevie Wonder. However, these allusions are lost on people less than one metre tall. So, I think, is Shrek’s profound reflection: “I never knew what I had till it was gone.”

My nine-year olds might enjoy it, or at least parts of it, but I wouldn’t take a child younger than five or six to see this. I’ll wait until it’s out on DVD to watch it at home with my children.

Perhaps the benefit of 3D or Imax would lift the film back into “wow” territory, but the old Shrek magic is gone. In a word, I was disappointed.

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