The fourth and perhaps final ogre outing, “Shrek: Forever After,” opened the Tribeca Film Festival in New York last night, a month ahead of its national release.
The green carpet bore Robert De Niro, festival cofounder, into the stately Ziegfeld Theatre along with the movie’s star voices: Mike Myers (Shrek), Eddie Murphy (Donkey), Cameron Diaz (Princess Fiona) and Antonio Banderas (Puss in Boots). It’s a rich franchise whose three films so far have taken in $2.2 billion worldwide, according to the Box Office Mojo Web site.
The latest Shrek is the first in 3-D, which could boost sales with the higher ticket prices generally charged for nerd glasses. It may need the boost.
The story opens with the green one in a brown study, ground down by domesticity, his ogre roar choked off from changing the triplets’ nappies. After a fight with Fiona, he signs a contract for a day as his old self with the ultimate deal-maker, Rumpelstiltskin, failing to note the perils in the fine print.
Magic propels Shrek into an alternative version of Far, Far Away, where no one knows him, Puss is overweight and Fiona leads an ogre resistance movement against the oppressive King Rumpelstiltskin and his legions of witches. As before, a true love’s kiss is crucial, although a full-blown ogre-witch battle helps things along.
The 3-D is used with great effect for a dragon ride and a very Harry Potteresque flying-broom chase. Otherwise, it seems mostly to add depth to animation that already was beyond 2-D.
The series has thrived on great banter, which continues here, and on the charms of playfully distorting familiar fairy tales. “Forever After” darkly distorts Shrek’s world, which suggests the franchise is running out of juice.
The films also crossed over well from a young audience to adults. Here, though, kids will face Shrek’s midlife crisis followed by enough angst and ogre aha moments to make a marriage counselor giddy. In fact, adults may find it icky too.
“Shrek: Forever After,” from Paramount Pictures, opens in the U.S. on May 21. Rating: **1/2
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(Jeffrey Burke is an editor with Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)