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'Shrek Forever' means laughter

Published May 26. 2010 05:00PM

"Shrek Forever After" is very entertaining, with excellent 3-D animation and funny quips in the fourth, and purportedly final, installment in the "Shrek" series (2007, 2004, 2001).

DreamWorks Animation ("Shark Tale," "Madagascar," "Kung Fu Panda," "Monsters Vs. Aliens," "How to Train Your Dragon") seems to be sticking with the furry critters and monsters subject matter.

Key to successful feature film animation is the characters' personalities. In "Shrek 4," the characters are abetted by their large, expressive and emotive eyes.

Also important is surfacing, which includes the tone of the skin or the rendering of the hair. Here, too, the "Shrek" animators' detail is amazing. The characters also have "weight" - and not only Shrek the ogre. When the characters walk or gesture, movements are lifelike and generally don't defy the laws of gravity.

The "Shrek 4" animators also paid close attention to layout, lighting and other effects. The settings, interiors and backgrounds are filled with detail.

While it's best to see "Shrek 4" in 3-D, as it has many delightful surprises, it would seem the film would also be enjoyable in regular projection format.

Another important tool in the animators' toolbox is vocal characterizations. "Shrek" boasts many returning voices.

Mike Myers, with a droll, slightly Scottish-inflected accent as "Shrek," is an inspiration to the animators.

Cameron Diaz as Fiona conveys assertiveness, charm and pragmatism in her voice work.

Eddie Murphy as Donkey nearly steals every scene. Murphy has many of "Shrek 4"'s funniest quips. "This isn't a Petting Zoo," Donkey chortles.

Puss In Boots, voiced again by Antonio Banderas, is also hilarious.

The character of Rumpelstiltskin, effectively voiced by story animator Walt Dohrn, is a stereotypical protagonist and quite silly.

Voice talents include those of Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Jane Lynch, Lake Bell, Mary Kay Place, Meredith Viera, Larry King and Regis Philbin.

"Shrek 4" has a plot and storyline that doesn't need repeating. "Shrek" is a classic fairy tale of sorts, even though the characters and storyline of the Kingdom of Far Far Away are a mash-up of familiar fables, and a send-up of storybook characters and plots.

The movie's message is nice, if simple: basically, that of the old blues song: You don't miss your water 'till the well runs dry. Or, put another way, to paraphrase: Be careful what you wish for. You might get it.

Some quips might go over the little one's heads, or yours or mine. For example: "How's that for a metaphysical paradox?"

Quibbles with the film have to do with the flying brooms squadron of witches, dead-ringers all for Margaret Hamilton in "The Wizard of Oz." The chase scenes are reminiscent of "Harry Potter" films. The scene where water is tossed on a witch, who shrinks and disappears, exclaiming, "I'm melting," is more rip-off than homage to "Oz."

There are also a lot of battle scenes, one or two too many.

There are a few plot twists and turns we won't give away. We will say that "ri-donk-ulous" may become a summer movie catchword and enter the lexicon, if it already hasn't.

Use of classic rock and pop songs add irony, including The Carpenters' "Top of the World"; Carol King's "You've Got A Friend"; and Lionel Richie's "Hello."

"Shrek Forever After" should amuse the entire family, from toddlers to teens to boomers.

"Shrek Forever After": MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children) for mild action, some rude humor and brief language; Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Run time: 1 hr., 33 min.; Distributed by Paramount Pictures.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Weezer performs "I'm A Believer," written by Neil Diamond and a 1966 hit for The Monkees, over "Shrek Forever After" end credits. Jeremy Steig plays The Pied Piper flute solos.

Box Office, May 21, "Shrek Forever After" opened at No. 1 with $72.2 million, dropping "Iron Man 2," two weeks straight at No. 1, to No. 2, $26.6 million, $251.2 million, three weeks.

The opening for the fourth "Shrek" is regarded as disappointing, compared to "Shrek the Third," which opened with $121 million in 2007 and was not in 3-D, which has a higher-priced ticket.

3. "Robin Hood," $18.7 million, $66.1 million, two weeks; 4. "Letters to Juliet," $9.1 million, $27.4 million, two weeks; 5. "Just Wright," $4.2 million, $14.6 million, two weeks; 6. "MacGruber" bombed, opening with only $4.1 million; 7. "Date Night," $2.8 million, $90.6 million, seven weeks; 8. "A Nightmare on Elm Street," $2.2 million, $59.9 million, four weeks; 9. "How to Train Your Dragon," $1.8 million, $210.9 million, nine weeks; "Kites," $1 million, opening.

Unreel, May 27, 28: "Sex and the City 2," Rated R: Like most New Yorkers, Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte are getting out of town for the summer, but instead of the Hamptons, it's Morocco. Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis star.

"Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time," Rated PG-13: Based on a video game, the film directed by Mike Newell stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a medieval prince and Gemma Arterton as a princess in a legend about an ancient dagger that allows its handler to rule the world.

"Survival of the Dead," Rated R: Director George A. Romero ("Night of the Living Dead") returns to familiar territory about a so-called zombie army off the coast of Delaware.

In Memory of: This column is dedicated to Michael Kuchwara, Associated Press drama critic since 1984, who died May 22. He was 63.

Read previous movie reviews at Email Paul Willistein at: pwillistein and on Facebook.

Three Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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