Shrek the Third

Last fall I reconnected with an old high school friend. When he asked me what I had been up to recently I told him about this site. A few days later I got a text from him saying that he had finally gotten a chance to check it out and he liked what I was doing. The next day I got another text from him asking how I picked the movies I wanted to review. I said it was more or less random. He texted back: yeah, it looks pretty random.

The only reason why I’m relating that super cool story is because I need to make a point: sometimes what I watch is random, and sometimes it’s random. I mean, there’s no reason why I would watch an Iranian Vampire Western and a documentary about a filthy rock and roll performance artist back to back, but at least those are both movies that fit into my general pop culture profile – I’m a dude who likes weird stuff and those are both weird. But even I kind of don’t know why I watched Shrek 3.

That’s not to say that it’s weird for me to want to watch such a popular animated movie because I’ve always had a soft spot for animation. And that isn’t to say that the movie was bad; it was actually pretty funny as far as kids movies go. But that is to say that before, during and after the movie I was trying to figure out why I was watching this movie now, years and years after it was current, and I couldn’t really come up with an answer. But fuck it; what’s done is done.

Anyway, I thought that it would be fitting to write a semi-random review of a movie I watched semi-randomly, so here are three unorganized observations about the whole Shrek Three experience: 

-Shrek's main storyline in this movie is that he has to come to terms with the fact that his wife Fiona is pregnant with a litter of little ogres. Why is this a plot in a kids movie? How is the pressure and stress of impending parenthood a relateable concern for anyone who is seven years old? I would understand how this plot could work if Shrek was worrying about his family getting bigger - after all, kids can understand the stress of having another sibling arrive on the scene - but that’s not his worry. No, his worry is that he won’t be a good dad, and while that’s a very reasonable fear for an adult to have it’s not the sort of fear that a child can understand since the stress of actually starting a family is entirely outside of their life experience.

Centering the main character’s main story on such an adult problem is the sort of storytelling decision that justifies Dreamworks reputation as a second rate Pixar, because Pixar handles this sort of story a lot more subtly. For example,  the Toy Story movies are mostly about parents secret anxieties because Woody is a good stand in for your average mom or dad – his narrative arc is that he has to learn to let go of Andy as he grows older and more independent. But kids don’t necessarily get that part of the story because as far as they can tell it’s just a fun story about toys going on adventures, which is something they can definitely relate to. As a grown man I can appreciate what Shrek 3 was trying to do with it's parental anxiety storyline, but a smarter script would have told this tale on two levels instead of expressing it's metaphorical concerns so literally.

-The only thing I remember about the first Shrek was that it had a lot of fart jokes - way too many for me. I’m not necessarily squeamish about such things, but it did feel like the movie was pandering to kids at the expense of adults, which I didn’t appreciate since I was seeing it as an adult. When there were no fart jokes in the first hour Shrek the Third I thought I was safe… But then at the very, very end of the movie Shrek's newborns show up and bring with them a preponderance of flatulence sounds. However, I do have to give Shrek Three this: the fart sounds did actually make me laugh this time. That wasn’t because I suddenly found butt toots to be funny – on the contrary, I was just as unimpressed as ever by the actual noises. However, this time around it reminded me of the Lonely Island who I actually do find to be funny. You see, the final track on the Wack Album is an involved story about a weirdo with bowel trouble and after the story has wrapped up Andy Samberg comes back in to say "You think you were gonna get out of this without a fart joke?... We were doin’ fart jokes when you were suckin’ ya mama’s tit!" That song is so dumb that I can’t think of it without laughing, so when Shrek reminded me of it I had to laugh by proxy. Your mileage will probably vary.

-The Shrek movies are set in a fairytale world, and something about seeing my thousandth iteration of Pinocchio and Prince Charming and Cinderella triggered a seriously morbid thought in my brain. In the time since those bedtime stories first entered our collective unconscious literally billions of real people have been born, lived, died and then been forgotten as if they never existed. It almost seems cruel that we can't forget these legends about non-existent people like Sleeping Beauty, and yet at the same time there are so many millions upon millions of real life flesh and blood bodies have been utterly erased from history. I’m not saying that this movie would have been more enjoyable if it had switched out The Gingerbread Man for an anonymous (but existent) baker, but it would have help reassured me that there is some hope that I might make an impact on the world. As it is, I was left with a bit of a bitter taste because I had to admit that even though King Arthur is a thousand years older than me he's still going to outlive me after I die.

So here are my three random wrap up points: 1. Kids movies are better when they are for kids, not parents. 2. I can’t really justify why one dumb thing makes me laugh and not another but enh, what can you do, comedy is subjective. 3. The only way I will probably ever earn a decent epitaph is if I meet a blue fairy and have her turn me into a real boy so I should probably get on that.

Winner: Me

Shrek 3 on IMDB