The advantage of making a film with ogres and a donkey at the center is that you can acutally (kind of) justify the endless stream of projectile vomiting and fart jokes, and my own kids, at least, never seem to tire of them. And when you have the film on DVD, well, they can rewind to watch the baby spewing green-pea vomit out of the baby carriage over, and over, and over again. So, rejoice, parents, Shrek the Third is here.
Actually, for a third film in a series, Shrek the Third isn't a terrible effort. While it's not as strong as the first two films (the second was surprisingly good for a sequel) and at times it feels that the filmmakers are really reaching by stretching the franchise to support a third film, if you compare it to, say, the dreadful Happily N'Ever After, it's pretty tolerable. Any time you can find a kids' film that the adults in the household can stomach watching multiple times, that's a good thing -- but you might want to make sure to have Shrek and Shrek 2 on hand as well.
The storyline of Shrek the Third is a bit thinly-sketched: following the death of the frog king, Shrek (Mike Myers), married to Princess Fiona, may be forced to wear the crown. And really, Shrek just wants to be what he is -- a crude, smelly ogre -- not primped-and-powdered royalty. Shrek's sensibilities are further challenged by Fiona (Cameron Diaz) feeling that biological clock ticking. She's ready to start a family but Shrek, whose own father tried repeatedly to eat him, isn't quite sure he's up for that task. Shrek goes off on a quest to find Arthur, the next-in-line for the crown, to persuade him to come and take the reins, but Arthur turns out to be less ... kingly ... that Shrek had hoped.
He's just a scrawny highschooler, picked on by Lancelot and despised by the cool kids. Merlin turns out to be a doddering old man whose spells sometimes have undesired results -- like transporting Donkey (Eddie Murphy) into Puss in Boots (Antonia Banderas), and vice versa, in one of the film's more amusing scenes. To complicate things (and provide the requisite bad guy) we have Prince Charming, still intent on taking things over the crown.
The animation, fortunately, wasn't skimped on in the sequel, it looks as rich and full as in the previous two films, and that comes across beautifully on the DVD. The voice actors don't sound tired of their roles yet, either, bringing energy and fun to the plot even when it drags a bit. The DVD is packed with kid-pleasing extras. My own test-viewers (my own four kids plus a friend) were less into the games than I thought they'd be (with XBox 360, Nintendo Wii and Playstation, it's really hard to hold kid's interest in game extras on DVDs unless they are exceptionally cool these days), but they watched Donkey's Dance over and over and over again, laughing hysterically every time he shakes his rump and says "derriere." The lost scenes and goofs were also a big hit, and something they wanted to watch more than once. All in all, Shrek the Third is a decent wrap-up to the Shrek series, and the DVD a nice addition to the family DVD collection. Just be prepared to deal with lots of imitative fart and vomit jokes from the kids for a while.