Film Review: Shrek Forever After

01/07/10 | Posted by MattPage

Putting Shrek and Jesus in the same article gets some people nervous. After all, Jesus' story is hardly fairy tale and he certainly wasn't an ogre. But there are one or two moments in this latest instalment of the Shrek series that reminded me of the life of Jesus. The latest film actually starts somewhere in the middle of the original film and in many ways Shrek Forever After is an attempt to put aside two forgettable sequels and get back to the heart of what made the first film work so well.

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 Unlikely saviour. Shrek discovers the worst.

Whilst Shrek is off saving Princess Fiona, her parents, the King and Queen of Far Far Away, are seeking an alternative method to gain her release. Desperate to save their daughter, the King and Queen seek out the disreputable trickster Rumpelstiltskin who offers to free their daughter if they will sign their kingdom over to him. After all, he asks, “what’s more important, your kingdom or your daughter?”

Put that way the phrase seems like a no-brainer and the king obligingly replies that his daughter takes precedence. His response however is somewhat opposite to that of another king. “For God so loved the world [his kingdom] that he gave his only son”. Quite a contrast.

Fortunately, just in the nick of time word reaches the king that Shrek has freed Fiona leaving the King and Queen overjoyed and Rumpel ruing his missed opportunity.

Cut to a year or two later and life has not quite worked out to have the fairy-tale happy ending that Shrek might have expected. Life looking after his three little ogres has worn him down and he begins to regret his life becoming so domesticated. So when Rumpel offers him the chance to have his old life back just for a day he jumps at the chance - only to discover that he has been tricked. Our green hero finds himself trapped in an alternative world where he never existed and Rumpel has become king. It’s an interesting variation on Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life only with an ogre-ist twist. As with the hero that film, Shrek quickly realises the immense value of the seemingly mundane life he leads, but Forever After makes him work much harder to get to his escape route.

So it’s not long before Shrek find himself having to sacrifice what remains of his life, in order to save his people, and, more to the point, the one he loves. It’s here again that the death of Jesus comes to mind – voluntarily giving up his life to free the people, his people, that he loves.

Back when the original film came out in 2001 it was its irreverent humour and its subversion of classic fairy-tales that made as much of a hit with adults as it was with kids. Nine years later the series has grown up a little. The humour is more mature and the themes are darker than the original movie. Its subversive aspects have less of an impact than they did at the turn of the century and so Shrek 4 isn’t quite as good as the original film. That said, it’s at least on a par with the second entry and its certainly much, much better than Shrek the Third.

Nevertheless, I suspect that this will be the final entry in the series. The last nine years have seen computer animation move on hugely such that, even though this film is in 3D, Shrek and his co-stars occasionally look awkward, out of date and poorly rendered. Thankfully it doesn’t spoil the film too greatly, leaving us plenty of scope to think about the gift of parenthood, sacrifice and the value of those we love.

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