That pot-bellied, belligerent green ogre, his adoring ogre princess bride, their pals the wise-cracking donkey and swashbuckling Puss-In-Boots: they are all back together for yet another animated adventure from the twisted fairy tale land of Far Far Away. Alan Silverman has a look at the new family comedy film "Shrek The Third."
Once upon a time, there was an ogre named Shrek whose 2001 movie was such a big hit there had to be a sequel ...and there was in 2004. Now, third upon a time, the big green guy would much rather be living in his beloved swamp, but family obligations keep him and Princess Fiona at the castle where her dad, the benevolent Frog King, is deathly ill. "
An ogre as king? Preposterous, but true ...unless Shrek can find the only other heir, a petulant teen named Arthur.
Mike Myers returns as the voice of Shrek, a character the Canadian-born comic actor says is a true collaboration with the animators. "I feel like a custodian of something that these really great filmmakers have made. I think this is the best of the three. I think they have built on 'one' and 'two' and created a great team. They write a great script and you just kind of fall back in the arms of these great filmmakers. I feel like I go to film school every time I do a session with them," he says.
Eddie Murphy voices the streetwise sidekick Donkey and, like Myers, he is a gifted improvisational comic; but Murphy says the animators imbued the character with his style of humor. "So much thought goes into bringing them to the screen, all you really have to do is just show up and do what they tell you to do. They know what they want. They are really specific about how they want you to say things. You get to improvise a little bit and they use maybe ten percent of the stuff that you improvise; but for the most part they know what they want. It's pretty much laid out for you so you go in and do your job," he says.
The "Shrek The Third" road-trip would not be complete without Puss-In-Boots. The furry fairy tale favorite oozing with charm and bravado is voiced by Antonio Banderas who loves the twisted take on storybook standards. "They actually did something that is counter-cultural. They took characters from children's literature that we grew up with and they looked at them with a totally different perspective and from a totally different angle. That, I think, is one of the strong appeals that "Shrek" has," he says.
"They inverted the traditional Euro-centric fairy tale in every possible way," says Mike Myers, who adds that, like the children's stories it lampoons, "Shrek" also delivers a moral to the story. "They had an ogre girl with a 'pretty girl' spell thrown on her, n-o-t the opposite. Traditional villains are heroes in this; traditional heroes are villains. They sort of make you question what is 'normal' ...what is the right way to have a family, to love, to be. It is about diversity and inclusion and loving yourself."
In "Shrek The Third," that counter-culture approach has the fairy tale princesses - from Snow White to Sleeping Beauty - refusing to wait around to be rescued and, instead, taking matters into their own hands. Cameron Diaz, the voice of princess Fiona, welcomes that message of empowerment. "I love that Fiona has always been, like, 'this is who I am.' Since the first "Shrek" when she became her true ogre self, she has always been 'this is who I am;' but I think it is also a message that is for boys and girls alike - for everyone: you just can't sit around and wait for somebody to do something for you. You can't wait for it to happen for you. You have to go out and make it happen for yourself. I think that's the message that reaches everyone (and) it's for everyone," she says.
The duplicitous Prince Charming is voiced by English actor Rupert Everett. The voice cast also includes Julie Andrews as the queen of Far Far Away. John Cleese has the best death scene ever as the Frog King; fellow "Monty Python" alumnus Eric Idle joins the cast as the wizard Merlin. Pop star Justin Timberlake plays reluctant young Arthur. Comic actresses Amy Sedaris, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph are the fairy tale princesses along with broadcaster Larry King:
"Shrek The Third" is directed by Chris Miller.