Shrek the Third (US - BD)
Gabe Powers reviews the BD release of the third in the animated movie series...
Shrek the ogre (Mike Myers) and his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are pushed into the possibility of ruling Far Far Away when the king dies somewhat unexpectedly. To avoid a lifetime of public service Shrek and his friends Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) embark on a journey to find the last heir of the kingdom. Meanwhile, Fiona announces she’s pregnant, and is left behind to defend Far Far Away from a surprise attack by Prince Charming and the forces of evil.
The Shrek movies, and in turn every Dreamworks Animated feature (minus the three that Ardman had their hands on) are entirely disposable entertainment. The first one was a cute enough pop-culture attack on Disney, and I laughed at it a few times (mostly at the bits with John Lithgow), and the animation was pretty good. The second one basically sucked, and followed through on every single sequel cliché ever in a sad attempt to build on the already unoriginal premise. The third one is more of the same. A few jokes still hit, the animation looks better than ever, but it’s still entirely disposable entertainment.
What’s missing here isn’t speedy and crystalline animation, or a few gags that aren’t going to be entirely dry by a second viewing, it’s imagination. There’s so little imagination on display here it almost hurts, and I have nothing invested in the series. The lack of imagination plagues every facet of the film—from the art direction, to the acting, to the plot and the sense of humour.
I watch a lot of generally badly written animation, but I can stomach it if it features generally interesting character designs, and animation style. The characters of Shrek the Third are designed to look generally like real people, or at least creatures that are based on real people. It’s boring. The plot doesn’t need to be a revelation, in fact we should all probably expect it to be easily digested and unoriginal, but one might expect a few surprises, or at least a minor sense of abandoned. This is a sprint to the finish with only a few action set pieces to keep the runtime theatrically standard.
The saddest thing about Shrek the Third is that the Genius and Lionsgate knock-offs that followed the massive success of Shrek 2 are actually better movies. Hoodwinked is a mostly failed effort, but it features an original and honest sense of humour, while Happily N’Ever After at least featured some unique character designs. Some people might think I have it in for Dreamworks Animation, or that I’m a Pixar fanboy. Well, the second part is correct, but really this film represents clearly everything that is wrong with the studio’s output, mainly the fact that no one really appears to be trying.
Digital animation in high definition, especially super expensive computer animation in high definition is always a good workout for the old television set. Shrek The Third is almost photorealistic at points, specifically the backgrounds. Details like granite, wood grain, grass and hay, and especially the deep blue sea. Human characters are still caught in the uncanny valley, and lack the emotive responses of the creatures, but their hair is very realistic, and their garment’s threads are very…textured. Their skin’s still a bit on the soft side though. Shrek and Fiona’s models have improved over the films, especially in emotional response and skin luminosity.
The characters occasionally don’t blend into their surroundings as well as the filmmakers might’ve liked, mostly because of a still uneasy mix of cartoony and photo real. The lighting is genuinely more interesting this time around, utilizing a more varied pallet, and a stronger sense of contrast. The black levels are slightly softer than expected, but the colours are quite vibrant and cleanly separated. Needless to say, there’s pretty much zero grain or noise in this straight to digital transfer.
No surprises on the audio front here, just a solid Dolby TrueHD track culled from an expertly crafted animated mix, featuring all the usually bells and whistles. The centre channel dialogue is crystal clear, the surrounds and stereos are lively with every manner of Far Away Land characters, and the LFE channel is punchy and supportive. The Shrek films have always featured a decent pop and rock covers and adaptations, and this one is no exception. Unfortunately the two best acquisitions this time around, Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ and Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ (which play right in a row) are kind of flat on disappear into the track. The score is warm and full, and pumps full throttle when called for, however.
The Blu-ray exclusive (and by ‘Blu-ray’ exclusive we actually mean ‘HD’ exclusive) ‘Animator’s Corner’ pop-up feature didn’t work on my Profile 1.0 player, but the pop-up trivia track and ‘World of Shrek’ options worked fine. There is, however, very little to report, as both extras are pretty dismal.
‘Meet the Cast’ is your basic made for TV EPK where the cast and crew praise each other’s talents, and vaguely endorse the film. It runs ten and a half minutes. ‘Tech of Shrek’ compares the technological advances in computer animation since the release of the first two films. The focus isn’t on the animation but the augmentations like fire and hair effects, and the featurette runs about ten minutes.
There are four deleted scenes presented as storyboard reading sessions. There are three angles presented on screen (non-adjustable), the storyboard, the reader, and a reaction shot of the rest of the crew. Everyone thinks the jokes are super funny. The deleted scenes all take place during Shrek, Donkey, and Puss’ gathering and bringing of Arthur, and run about twenty six minutes.
The Dreamworks Kids section has three features. ‘Merlin’s Magic Crystal Ball’ is like a digital Magic 8 Ball (I believe there was one of these on the original Shrek DVD in magic mirror form), and doesn’t feature Eric Idol’s voice (or even a particularly good impersonator. ‘Learn the Donkey Dance’ speaks for itself, while ‘How to be Green’ is a series of steps for living a more environmentally friendly existence.
The rest of the disc is made up of a bunch of little bits. ‘Shrek’s Guide to Parenthood’ is a little flash animation thing where four different characters offer cause and effect parenting advise, ‘Donkey Dance’ is the donkey dancing for thirty seconds, ‘Big Green Goofs’ are a collection of terrifying animation errors, and there are Dreamworks Animation Juke Box and My Menu options.
Shrek the Third sucks, and I don’t get the feeling that any of the people involved really cared. The failure of best laid plans is a tragedy, but there aren’t any plans here to mourn, just a series of moving images that look vaguely realistic, and tired celebrity voices. This Blu-ray Disc looks and sounds great, but there hasn’t been much effort put forth in the realm of extras, making this whole thing that much more cynical.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 23rd September 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English HoH, French, and Spanish
Extras: Animator's Corner, Pop-Up Trivia, World of Shrek, Meet the Cast, Tech of Shrek, Merlin's Crystal Ball, How to be Green, Learn the Donkey Dance, Deleted Scenes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Chris Miller
Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett, Larry King, Ian McShane
Genre: Animation and Comedy
Length: 92 minutes
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