A passable but largely disappointing addition to the franchise, Chris Miller and Raman Hui´s Shrek the Third coasts along for 80 minutes based on the strength of its characters (and their voice actors) and little else.
Boasting still-impressive animation (likely the most advanced in the series), film picks up where Shrek 2 left off, with Shrek (Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) married and struggling with royal life in the land of Far, Far Away.
After King Harold dies and leaves Shrek next in line to the throne, the reluctant Ogre sets out to find nephew Artie, next-in-line after him; all the while worrying about fatherhood after Fiona´s unexpected pregnancy.
Meanwhile, the devious Prince Charming plans an attack. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) are back for comedic support, entirely superfluous to the plot this time around.
While the original film gave us a fresh spin on the damsel-in-distress storyline, this one feels cliché all the way through. Plot lacks any real conflict until the final third; do kids really want to see a meditation on Shrek´s internal power struggle and impending fatherhood?
As this is a family film, we also know exactly where things are headed; there´s little doubt that Shrek will end up a happy father, with a trip to the Far, Far Away Abortion Clinic likely out of the question.
Still, main characters are lovable and voice cast is mostly excellent, though Justin Timberlake fails to leave any kind of impression as Artie; it doesn´t help that his bland character lacks any kind of depth outside of a none-too-subtle King Arthur reference.
Murphy and Banderas steal the show once again, though they have considerably less to do than in the previous films. Fresh and inventive storytelling has now become disappointingly generic and routine; a major departure for the series.
Kids should still be entertained, but little is left for adults; though it´s never outright boring, it´s a long hour and a half that feels like a Saturday morning cartoon stretched to feature length.
Strip away the beloved characters and we´re left with any number of the generic, forgettable computer-animated kiddie flicks to come out in recent years.