One of the most successful animated franchises not associated with Disney returns for another round in “Shrek the Third” - a satisfying sequel that has its charm but isn't quite up to par with its predecessors.
This installment begins with Shrek (Mike Myers) learning that his father-in-law, King Harold (John Cleese), is ill and he is expected to succeed the king as the leader of Far, Far Away.
Shrek is reluctant and soon discovers there is another potential heir to the throne - a young teen named Artie (Justin Timberlake). Shrek sets out to convince the young boy to be king, but while he is gone, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) stages a coup in an attempt to take control of the kingdom.
The “Shrek” films are at their best when delivering satire that will amuse the kids, but are designed to entertain the adult audience. There are some moments of brilliance in “Shrek the Third” (scenes featuring Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella as domestic housewives are inspiring), but this installment lacks the overall spark of the previous two films.
The supporting cast - including Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots and Eddie Murphy as Donkey - are still funny, but it seems as if the franchise is starting to suffer from too many characters and Shrek is almost an afterthought. It's OK to try to improve on your previous work, but the other big release this month, “Spider-Man 3,” has already proven bigger isn't always better.
To its credit, “Shrek the Third” is a better film than “Spider-Man” - the kind of movie that will please its diehard fans, but it's not likely to add to that fan base.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “Letters From Iwo Jima” (A-), the second part of director Clint Eastwood's World War II saga (“Flags of Our Fathers” being the first) told from the Japanese perspective. “Iwo Jima” is a subdued masterpiece, with a unique perspective on war.
The film centers around the critical battle of the war - the island of Iwo Jima, which was a critical cog for the United States to launch a ground battle.
The task of protecting the island is given to General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) - an honorable soldier, who was once a Japanese diplomat to the U.S.
The film's strength lies in Eastwood's direction, which takes a neutral perspective that sheds a sympathetic light on the Japanese soldiers. Like our soldiers, these were men who fought for the honor of their country, many of whom were scared to be there and just hoped to return home to their loved ones.
Eastwood really paints a human face on all the central characters, which only adds to the pain and intensity of the battle sequences (which are so visually impressive that one could argue “Iwo Jima” should have taken the Oscar for Best Cinematography).
“Iwo Jima” is the perfect companion piece to “Flags” - actually making the other film better upon reflection - but it's also a film strong enough to stand on its on.
“Letters from Iwo Jima” is rated R for graphic war violence and is now available on DVD.
‘Shrek the Third'
Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy (voices)
Directed by: Chris Miller and Raman Hui
Rating: PG for some crude humor and suggestive content
Playing at: Greenwood Mall 10, Highland Cinemas (Glasgow), Franklin Drive-In