Shrek the Third

The best possible animation . . .

A neutered donkey is just a braying ass as far as I'm concerned, and in Shrek the Third Eddie Murphy's once fast talking, acidic, contrary sidekick Donkey becomes just another concerned friend of Shrek. Therein lies my primary criticism of an otherwise crowd-pleasing tale of the Ogre (Mike Myers) and his wife, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), tiring of taking care of the Far, Far Away kingdom while the frog king (John Cleese), Fiona's father, is ailing. Upon his death they search for the next-in-line heir to take the burden off the Shreks ("I am an ogre. I'm not cut out for this," Shrek tells his wife).

This amusing fairy tale with major characters from great tales such as Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Snow White, and Captain Hook, among others, has a smart theme about being yourself despite negative attitude from others. It is carried through most of the film, starting with people's initial revulsion at seeing Shrek and not seeing his humanity to Arthur becoming king despite the "loser' appellation given by his high school peers. The parody of Beverly Hills High, in which girls use "like" in every sentence with high pitched, "Oh-my-God" voices is funny material.

The opening vaudeville show, medieval style, is ingenious as is the raucous sequence in which the Shrek and Fiona struggle with their royal costumes. Of course, DreamWorks has incorporated the best possible animation production, right down to silky hair bouncing perfectly.

Despite the sweeter characters in Shrek the Third and the streamlined, focused plot, I miss the torrent of pop-cult references in the first and second editions. I'm still threatening to go back to savor all the references, the ones I heard and the many I missed.

But I have too many new films to see, the older ones drifting far, far away.