Shrek Forever AfterIt seems like only yesterday we were last frolicking through the fields of Far Far Away with Shrek, Fiona and Donkey, but three years have passed since 'Shrek the Third,' and it's hard to tell whether or not audiences have actually missed the world's original eco-friendly franchise. (Get it, because Shrek's green? Ahem ...)

Time has not necessarily been kind to everyone's favorite ogre, with many critics observing a decline in quality with each sequel. Will the final installment of the Oscar-winning series be enough to restore Shrek's reputation in the hearts and minds of audiences?

Having seen 'Shrek Forever After,' we must admit that the movie is a marked improvement over 'Third,' which we found so forgettable that a trip to Wikipedia was necessary just to refresh our memories of the plot.

In case you, too, need a refresher course on Shrek's exploits before 'Forever After' hits theaters on May 21, Moviefone has put together a reminder of the story so far, along with a sneak peek at what to expect from the new movie, after the jump. Shrek Forever AfterIt seems like only yesterday we were last frolicking through the fields of Far Far Away with Shrek, Fiona and Donkey, but three years have passed since 'Shrek the Third,' and it's hard to tell whether or not audiences have actually missed the world's original eco-friendly franchise. (Get it, because Shrek's green? Ahem ...)

Time has not necessarily been kind to everyone's favorite ogre, with many critics observing a decline in quality with each sequel. Will the final installment of the Oscar-winning series be enough to restore Shrek's reputation in the hearts and minds of audiences?

Having seen 'Shrek Forever After,' we will say that the movie is a marked improvement over 'Third,' which we found so forgettable that a trip to Wikipedia was necessary just to refresh our memories of the plot.

In case you, too, need a refresher course on Shrek's exploits before 'Forever After' hits theaters on May 21, Moviefone has put together a reminder of the story so far, along with a sneak peek at what to expect from the new movie.

The Story So Far ...

'Shrek'
Once upon a time in the land of Far Far Away, a beautiful princess was cursed with a terrible spell which changed her from a beauty to a beast each night. To hide the truth of her frightening face, the princess was locked in a tower guarded by a fearsome dragon, waiting for the day when true love's kiss would break the spell.

Unlucky for Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), her knight in shining armor was less of a handsome prince and more of a belligerent (and inexplicably Scottish) ogre named Shrek (Mike Myers), whose dashing steed wasn't so much a white horse as a wisecracking donkey (called Donkey, natch).

Nevertheless, Shrek and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) saved the princess, rescuing her from an unappealing engagement to the vertically challenged Lord Farquaad (John Lithgow) and saving the kingdom from Farquaad's tyrannical rule. Shrek and Fiona shared true love's kiss, revealing true love's form, which (unlucky again, Fiona) transformed the princess into an ogre permanently. The pair got married and lived happily ever after in Shrek's swamp, at least until the sequel.

Puss in Boots - Dreamworks'Shrek 2'
Said sequel saw Fiona and Shrek traveling to meet the princess's parents (voiced by British thesps Julie Andrews and John Cleese), who were less than thrilled that their knockout daughter had gained a couple hundred pounds and developed a year-round green tan.

Also un-thrilled was Fiona's Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders), who had been hoping Fiona would hook up with her dashing son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), and rule the kingdom of Far Far Away with him. Perturbed that Fiona's dream fairy-tale future had been ruined by a stinky ogre with bad table manners, Fiona's father Harold arranged to have Shrek and Donkey killed by the lethal (and ridiculously adorable) Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas); but a sword and the biggest, saddest eyes in the world proved no match for Shrek's indomitable will and bad breath.

Though Shrek was convinced that Fiona was unhappy with his ugly ogre self, not even Fairy Godmother's Happily Ever After potion and Shrek's transformation into a hunky human could convince Fiona that she didn't love her man just the way he was. The pair decided that beauty was in the eye of the beholder, Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming were sent packing, and Fiona's parents gave Shrek their blessing. And they all lived happily ever after again. Until ...

'Shrek the Third'
In the threequel, Shrek had to come to terms with the prospect of parenthood following the news that Fiona was pregnant. On top of Shrek's commitment issues, Fiona's dying father broke the news that Shrek and Fiona were in line to become the new king and queen of Far Far Away. Petrified of the responsibilities piling up on him, Shrek embarked on a quest to track down the king's nephew, Arthur (Justin Timberlake), another heir to the throne. Unfortunately, the teenage Arthur wasn't too jazzed about the prospect of all the responsibilities that come with ruling a kingdom either and told Shrek where he could shove 'em.

While Shrek, Donkey and Puss were off trying to convince Arthur to take his place as king, a bitter Prince Charming rallied all the fairy tale villains in the land to lay siege to Far Far Away and help him steal King Harold's throne. After some deep and meaningful life lessons on responsibility for Shrek and Arthur, the pair defeated Charming, and Arthur agreed to become king -- allowing Shrek and Fiona to return to their swamp and become parents to three adorable ogre triplets.


What Happens Next?
Well, that would be telling, and then Dreamworks would hunt us down with pitchforks and flaming torches. Without giving too much away, the plot of 'Shrek Forever After' deals with the trials and tribulations of parenthood -- Shrek ponders the timeless cinematic question of what life might be like if he had never been born in a very literal way, and the franchise continues with the height-impaired villain theme by introducing the dastardly wish-granter Rumplestiltskin (Walt Dohrn) into the mix.

If this sounds like it's all been done before, it's because it has -- but despite the echoes of 'It's a Wonderful Life,' 'Forever After' still manages to inject some charm, pathos and genuinely funny moments into the closing chapter of this beloved franchise. Here are some highlights to watch out for:

Fiona, Warrior Princess
Our little Fiona has never been the dainty, delicate type, even before getting her mean, green makeover; but in the alternate universe where Shrek was never born, Fiona got tired of waiting to be saved and took matters into her own hands. Now, she's a certified ass-kicker with an army of ogre minions, and if Shrek thinks getting a kiss from her was tough the first time around, he ain't seen nothing yet ...

Gladiator Gingy
One of the series's standout characters ever since his legless turn in the original movie, the Gingerbread Man continues his trend of scene-stealing in 'Forever After,' featuring a moment that drew literal gasps from the audience during our preview screening. He might be made of sugar and spice, but in Rumplestiltskin's alternate universe, he's also one tough cookie.

Pussy Galore
Reality TV has already proven that there's nothing wrong with having a little bit 'More to Love,' but our previously svelte Puss in Boots has taken that attitude to a whole new level in the fourth installment -- he can't even fit into his iconic footwear! But chunky or not, this pampered kitty can still work those eyes like nobody's business.


Butter Pants
Voiced by director Mike Mitchell, this obnoxious kid almost steals the show. Believe us, you'll know him when you see him. (FYI, his on-screen father is voiced by Ryan Seacrest, if you're into random cameos.)

Jon Hamm and his JawBrogan - Dreamworks
Our favorite 'Mad' man takes a break from smoking, drinking and generally being a scoundrel in the '60s to lend his voice (and his iconic chin) to the beefcake Brogan, one of Fiona's aforementioned ogre minions. And even as an swamp-dwelling monster, we have to admit he's still kind of dreamy ...


Sharp-eared viewers should also listen out for Jane Lynch as witchy Gretched -- sadly sans any music video parodies -- and Craig Robinson, who gives a hilarious performance as the ogre chef Cookie.



Will you see 'Shrek Forever After,' or are you over the franchise? Which movie has been your favorite? Let us hear your thoughts below!