The fourth and hopefully final installment of the animated ogre's tale walks on very little new ground. All routes seem to have been explored in the previous three films, so we end up taking a trip back to where it all started. And having to go through what we already went through again........if you see what I mean.
Shrek's fed up with his perfect life. Yes he's got an ogress wife with the voice of Cameron Diaz, aswell as three perfect ogre children, but he is just so ordinary now. He wants to go back to a time when he was special, when people feared his roar, or fled screaming from his very presence. Of course the trouble with getting what you want in life is that it causes more problems than it fixes. Thus our hero is taken all the way back to a time where Diaz's Fiona doesn't know or want to know him, where the kids don't exist and where even donkey (voiced again by a still singing Eddie Murphy) finds it hard to believe that the two could be best friends. And don't even get him started on the notion that he has children who are a mix between him and his fire-breathing dragon wife.
Leading Shrek back to this alternate reality is the demented wizard-cum-dwarf Rumpelstiltzkin. For reasons that I might have missed in Shrek 3, Rumpelstiltzkin has the power to grant Shrek his wish, and so a deal is struck between the two. Shrek gives up one day of his life in return for one day of genuine ogredom. He's genuinely scary again, and he no longer has to suffer the indignity of having tour buses full of sightseers drive past his home. The only thing is that the day he happened to give up was the day he was born. And so he was never born. Complicated? The kids won't think so, will they?
And so begins Shrek's quest to win back Fiona (for it is only true love's kiss which will break the curse that Shrek's new/old life becomes). Hence we have been here before, back to the days when Shrek released the then Princess Fiona from the tower of her incarceration. The fact that she is now a warrior Queen busy rallying the ogre troops for battles ahead is not making Shrek's job any easier. Nor is Puss In Boots, reprised by Antonio Banderas but suffering from something of a weight problem. No longer the flashing blade of old, Puss is a fat housecat who is massaged twice a day and seems to sleep for the rest of it.
Dreamwork's ultimate motivation here seems to have been to knock out a 3-D movie while the going is good in that particular market. I chose the conventional, 2-D route for my experience, but it may be that adorning uncomfortable eye-wear could enhance yours. The scenes which are designed for the 3-D audience are stupefyingly obvious. Having seen the 3-D show in Forida recently I already feel like I kind of know what I would have got if I had gone the other way and donned the specs. I don't feel like I missed out on anything.
The dancing ogres and witches will entertain your young well enough, as will the few belly laughs you get from Banderas, but this is not a film that you or they will remember all that fondly. It's at least one Shrek too many, which is almost certainly the reason that the screenwriters chose to go down the alternate reality route in the first place. If you don't expect Finding Nemo and you don't take it too seriously, this a perfectly enjoyable but not life-changing way for the family to spend 93 minutes.