Shrek ain’t dreck, it’s just that the third chapter in the life of the bilious-green ogre is listing from taking on the heavy load of virtue, a poor substitute for mischief. I mean, really, isn’t it way early in the sequel stage for our boy Shrek (again voiced by Mike Myers) to be facing a midlife crisis? With the king dead, should Shrek wear the crown? With wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) knocked up, should Shrek embrace the responsibilities of fatherhood? Decisions. Decisions. What the hell happened to the swamp where Shrek farted without fear during his mud showers? Who wrote this thing, Dr. Phil? Actually Chris Miller, who co-directed with Raman Hui, is one of the four screenwriters it took to spoil the fun with “to-thy-own-self-be-true” message mongering. I just flashed on another sequel with Shrek as Lear. Yikes!
Miller lacks the light touch of Andrew Adamson, who directed the first two Shrek hits, including the terrific Oscar-winning original. The kid in me perked up briefly when Shrek, in the sassy company of Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss n Boots (Antonio Banderas), set out to find a king substiture. That would be once and future King Artie (Justin Timberlake), a high-school nerd who is way too square at this stage to invent a cool concept like the Round Table. Hopes for a romantic triangle are shattered when it is revealed that Artie and Fiona are cousins, a convenient plot ploy since Diaz and Timberlake have since ended their tabloid-fueled love thang. What lifts the movie from time to time is the fun on the sidelines. Rupert Everett wickedly voices Charming, a prince reduced to doing dinner theater. And Fiona bonds with a feminist cabal made up of kickass ladies-in-waiting, including Amy Poehler voicing Snow White, Maya Rudolph doing Rapunzel, Amy Sedaris as Cinderella, and Cheri Oteri nodding off as Sleeping Beauty. But there’s no disguising the fact that Shrek the Third has come down with a bad case of sequelitis. You know the symptoms: Lots of razzle-dazzle to distract from the hole at the center of the story. You know, the place where fresh ideas should be.