Shrek the Third
Directed by Chris Miller

Written by Jeffrey Price, Peter S. Seaman, Mr. Miller and Aron Warner

Starring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas


Shrek the Third

I wasn't looking forward to yet another third installment, particularly after "Spiderman 3," Hadn't the lovely wit of the first been wrung out of it by the second, which was just a mishmash of leftover jokes and shallow plots? But I was wrong; "Shrek the Third" is really as good as the first one, with, yes, shameless stealing of gags from Chaplin, from Keaton - and if you're going to steal you might as well steal from the best - plus bits from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and a lovely moment that uses a great old Beatles song as the soundtrack.

This time the old king is on his deathbed and wants Shrek to take over the kingdom, but Shrek would much rather be at home, playing in the mud with his wife Fiona; well, it turns out that she has a half-brother Artie, who could inherit the kingdom if they can find him. Meanwhile Prince Charming (voiced by Rupert Everett), who would of course dearly love the throne, has been reduced to playing the role of the true inheritor in dinner theatre, until he decides to make his own attack on the castle.

And while he's doing that, Shrek (Mike Myers), Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) set out to find Artie (voiced by Justin Timberlake), who's now at school where he's beaten up by just about everyone. All along the way, there are lines that are witty, that don't sound stale or just repeat the gags of the first two films. I don't want to make this sound like the second coming; it's not, and we can be grateful; but there's a freshness to them, and to the story line, that makes this at least a breath of fresh air. Even the shameless theft of the gags is done with tongue in cheek.

And there are new, more lifelike renditions of the visual characters - part an improvement in the technology, part just a better choice of camera angles from which to shoot the action (remember that this is all drawn; so much of the effect comes from how you choose where the camera should be for each shot, and what you want to show). And because the script is so much better than Shrek 2, everyone seems to be having a much better time here; the energy level and the wit of the film come through here with some of the same force as Shrek 1. And - I'm happy to say - it looks as though the series ends with this one; I could be wrong, but please - let's not try for just one more, when this one could end it.