When "Shrek" came out back in 2001, it was the film that finally showed people in animation that DreamWorks was a force to be reckoned with. While granted I don't think it's their greatest film and certainly don't believe it's one of the greatest animated movies ever made like some claim, I do find the first film and its sequel "Shrek 2" genuinely fun films with some hilarious comedy and great characters. The less said about "Shrek the Third", the better. Now we come down to the fourth installment in the series "Shrek Forever After" which the marketing claims will be the "final chapter". The last film in the series. If it is, then I can say without hesitation that I probably won't miss it. This was a series that went incredibly sour over time and this film, unfortunately, doesn't help cement the series reputation. It's a much better film than the third film, but it's not saying much. It's still pretty bad.
A year has passed since the events of the last film and Shrek (Mike Meyers) has starting to become tired of being a family man and wishes to relive his days of being a fearsome ogre. A big contribution to this is that he has been reliving almost the same day over and over again with Fiona (Cameron Diaz), Donkey (Eddie Murphy), and Puss (Antonio Banderas). Wanting to relive one day, he makes a deal with a conman named Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) who promises to give him one day to be a fearsome ogre in exchange for one day of his life as a baby. Shrek agrees to this and things seem to be going well until he realizes he has been thrown into an alternate reality where he wasn't born. Having only the rest of the day given to him to undo the clause, Shrek sets out to find Fiona, who is now a leader of an ogre rebellion, to try to fix the problem.
Looking back at this film compared to the other films from 2010, it's clear to see why I wasn't a huge fan of it. The other animated movies that came out that year were able to accomplish what this film couldn't. "Toy Story 3" was able to be a great sequel, "Tangled" was able to be a good fairy tale movie, and even "Despicable Me" was able to be a hilarious comedy. This was something that this film was trying to do all three of but failed to accomplish any of them. Like I stated, this film is such a lazy and disappointing conclusion to the series. I think why the film fails is because of the story. The film is yet another take on the "It's A Wonderful Life" trope by having the protagonist realize the mistake he has done by showing him what the world would look like had he never been born. It doesn't continue the story in any way. It's a movie made to help us love Shrek even more and I think it fails because of that. All good sequels are made to continue the story and show how much the character has grown over time, but Shrek is pretty unlikeable and selfish in this film. He's no George Bailey that's for sure. At least with George, we can see why he would want to be driven to what he does which gives the film a reason for why he is shown the world where he was never born. Shrek just gets upset that he can't be an ogre anymore even though his life is perfect, he has a beautiful wife and three kids, as well as lots of friends. It was such a selfish act and completely out of character for him that it sinks the entire film. Not to mention, the comedy really doesn't work in this film as well. I didn't laugh once during the entire film. Not that the comedy was so awful that it made me cringe, it just didn't make me laugh. It wasn't funny. The jokes just came and went and did nothing for me. They weren't memorable in any fashion. That's never a good sign for any comedy film. As far as the animation goes, I honestly wasn't fully impressed. Comparing this film to "How to Train Your Dragon" which came out the same year, this film feels like a step backward from the animation in that film. It's so generic and basic that it doesn't raise the bar that "Dragon" had. I think the only thing that did kind of work for were some of the characters in the film. I still love Donkey and Puss and I thought the two still had a funny relationship together and Fiona was also nicely developed as her alternate self. The villain is lame, however. I think Fairy Godmother set the bar way too high in the second film because Rumpelstiltskin just came off as obnoxious with his ridiculous design and over the top voice. I couldn't stand him one bit. Also, as I said, it's hard to relate to Shrek in this film. He came off as so selfish in the intro of the film that you can't relate to him for the rest of the movie. It's such a disappointment.
And honestly, disappointment is the best word to describe "Shrek Forever After". The story is lazy and doesn't continue as it should, the animation is average but not an improvement, and the side characters work but the protagonist and antagonist fail. Looking back on this film, I'm honestly glad that DreamWorks has moved on from the "Shrek" series to make movies like "Kung Fu Panda" and "How to Train Your Dragon" because looking at the last two films, it went sour quickly. I'd personally only stick to the first two "Shrek" films and "Puss in Boots". As for this and the third, just don't pay them any mind.