Irrational bias and preconceived notions aren’t exactly the most admirable traits for a film critic to cop to, but screw it: There’s always been something about the Shrek series that makes me feel like one of those raving dudes on a street corner, with eyes flitting nervously between the nearest bomb shelter and bell tower. Chalk it up to the unholy demographic fusion of Smash Mouth tunes and quickly dated cultural references, or the enduring notion that the genesis of the entire fairy-tale piss-take enterprise is Jeffery Katzenberg’s snit fit over getting booted from Disney. Or, maybe, it’s just this: It’s a blockbuster phenomenon that wouldn’t exist without the efforts of other films, and somehow smugly pats itself on the back for it.
So, um, anyway, how about that Shrek the Third? To their credit, the filmmakers this time out dispense with the previous entries’ manic pace and self-congratulatory pop-culture riffs to reveal that, at its core, their fable contains a heart of… well, nothing, really. Still, such limpness may be preferable to the ceaseless wink-wink nudginess of the earlier installments. Or, you know, you could just stay at home and watch The Bullwinkle Show.
Picking up directly from the last film, the storyline finds Shrek, Donkey, and the still kind of funny Antonio Banderas cat thing undertaking a quest to find dweeby King Arthur (Justin Timberlake). Along the way, lessons about leadership are learned, Shrek deals with his fears about becoming a father, and Pinocchio comes even further out of the closet. There’s not much more to say, really, other than the advances in CGI mainly serve to make the humanoid characters look increasingly creepy, and the vocal performances suggest that the returning performers are somewhat less than enthused about the chance to make what’s sure to be another bazillion dollars for the studio. Back to the corner I go.