Friday, May 21, 2010

Shrek is over? I'm over Shrek.

There was a time when I would be excited to see a new animated film, even if it wasn't by Disney or Pixar.

That time has passed. Shrek Forever After comes out today, and I just  ... don't really care.

I think a lot of people feel similarly after Shrek the Third played so flatly. Truth be told, however, I've thought this series was overrated from the beginning.

I enjoyed the original Shrek quite a bit but found much of its anti-Disney humor overly harsh and mean-spirited. It wasn't surprising, considering the main creative force behind DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg, has, um -  mixed feelings about the Mouse House. More importantly, the meanness felt out of place because the main core of characters - Shrek, Donkey and Fiona - was quite strong and endearing.

Still, DreamWorks' penchant for pop culture riffing was already starting to rear its ugly head. The film opened with the overplayed song "All Star," which immediately dated it, even in 2001. When the first Oscar for Best Animated Film was handed out the next year, Shrek expectedly won, but I think many would agree in hindsight that Pixar's Monsters Inc. would have been a better choice.

Three years later, Shrek 2 came along, and at first, I liked the sequel a little better than the original because some of the meanness had dissipated. However, the rampant pop culture riffing was still in place. The movie spoofs Spider-Man, Lord of the Rings and The Little Mermaid - and that's just within the first 5 minutes. DreamWorks seemed to think those gags were what made people fall in love with the first film, when it was, in fact, the characters. Puss in Boots was a great addition, but time hasn't been kind to the sequel, and it galls me to no end that it's the most financially successful animated film of all time.

Then came Shrek the Third, and even ardent fans of the series were disappointed. It wasn't terrible, it was strictly blah. The movie just sat there. I laughed out loud only once or twice. Sure, it made tons of money, but people often forget that how well a sequel performs at the box office greatly depends on how much people loved its predecessor. Shrek 2 made as much as it did because people loved the first film. Shrek the Third managed to cross $300 million because it had enough goodwill from Shrek 2.

I'm not at all convinced Shrek Forever After (or Shrek: The Final Chapter, whatever they want to call it) will get close to $300 million. Even if it's better than the third film, I think its momentum will stall because Shrek the Third was so underwhelming.

Alas, the reviews are not encouraging so far. At this time of writing, it has a mediocre 57 score on Metacritic - about even with Shrek the Third. That's not nearly enough to convince me to see it. Even if I do, it will be more out of a sense of obligation (or boredom) than anticipation.

It goes without saying that I'm all over Toy Story 3 next month. But I'm also more interested in Despicable Me. Heck, even Legend of the Guardians, the Happy Feet-like movie with the owls, looks more intriguing to me, especially since Zack Snyder (yes, same guy who made 300) directed it.  Even if the owls don't mingle with zombies or burly Spartans, we might be in for a treat.


Scott Copeland said...

Judging from its opening, many people agree with you. It will be lucky to see $200 million. The opening undershot many $100 million predictions by about a third. Goodbye, Shrek (and could you take Madagascar with you?)

Sir Critic said...

Just imagine what the figure would be if the 3D surcharges weren't a factor. It has an A CinemasScore, so it will hold OK, but there are only four weeks until Toy Story 3, after which it's done. The question now is, will it or will it not outpace How to Train Your Dragonm, which stands at $210M?

Scott Copeland said...

My money is on the Dragons.