Sometimes a story ends. There are three approaches to this- either as in the Lord of the Rings franchise, thankfully, it seems film makers accept that that is it and there is an end, or as in the James Bond franchise the story can just start again from scratch with James needing a new girl and having a new mission to begin- and then there is the third option, to start from the happily ever after moment- to start with the hero happy and married and try and make a story from there.
That's what Shrek III has done- starting from a point at which Princess Fiona's father is dying and the ogre has been offered the crown but doesn't want it so has to find the heir- a school kid called Arthur. Furthermore Prince Charming voiced by Rupert Everett has designs himself upon the throne- and unites all the fairytale bad guys- dwarfs, witches etc to further his evil designs. Meanwhile Shrek our old friend is facing up to adulthood and the prospect of being a father- his wife Fiona tells him that she is pregnant. Shrek therefore aided by his mates- donkey and Puss in Boots goes to find Arthur- and half the film concentrates on his efforts to find Arthur and persuade him to take the throne. Meanwhile back at the castle, Prince Charming leads an assault and conquers the Kingdom. The remainder of the film deals with whether Arthur will take the throne, how Shrek reconquers the kingdom and whether Shrek can be a father.
The story is almost purposeless though because its not an arc- its a circle- we end up with Shrek basically in the same position as he was in at the beginning of the film- happily married, and alright looking and that's how he finishes. In the course of the film there are the takes off of life that we have come to expect- cyclopses in charge of torture who bring their kids to work and of course film comparisons- including an inspired sequence of Charlie's Angel Princesses attacking a castle and taking on the guards.
A lot of the humour in this is just dull- its slapstick- animals falling over etc that doesn't really enlighten. There are probably too many characters- most seem to only have a couple of lines and there is too much concentration on a rather insipid relationship between Shrek and Fiona in which love is perfect and always happy and Shrek's worries evaporate. Its just a bit trite in all ways- and the viewer feels it.
There is a sense that we have been here before- we have seen this set of jokes- this set of attitudes before. In the end this is middle America's vision in fairytale language- we are seeing what we have always seen and its fairly harmless. More than any of the other Shrek films this is a kid's film but one which concentrates on relationships, its a film that adults will be irritated by as much as they like the moments of film comedy- utlimately this is to saccharine to be good- and partly that's because we already know so much of the ending at the beggining. If you are going to start from where you left off- you need some dramatic tension, Shrek 3 has precious little tension whatsoever.
This is a film that I would take a child to and they would probably enjoy lots of it- but personally the lack of a story arc- the lack of much to discover means that this isn't of the quality of the first Shrek films- I hope this is the last one they make or that they get a better idea for the next one because otherwise the seam of this franchise could well become over exploited.