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Shrek the Third

By Harry Forbes
Catholic News Service

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Not that it will matter to most how critics -- or even the august Office for Film & Broadcasting -- weigh in, but we're happy to report that "Shrek the Third" (DreamWorks) lives up to the high standards of the first two films, and therefore can be warmly recommended for family viewing, albeit with some minor cautions.

Near the start of this new installment, everyone's favorite green ogre, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) finds himself scarily on the precipice of assuming the throne, as his frog father-in-law (John Cleese) is about to, uh, croak.

Just before he does, the king blurts out the name of another potential heir who might assume the burdens of statehood: one Arthur Pendragon.

Dreading the restrictions of royal life, Shrek is determined to find this substitute ruler at all costs, and sails off posthaste with his trusty buddies -- Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) -- to find young Artie (Justin Timberlake), not the knight he first espies (Lancelot), but a bullied loser at a high school. (Today's teenage jargon -- "like" and "totally" peppering every utterance -- is hilariously on target.)

While Shrek is away, however, the evil Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) has talked a host of fairy-tale villains and ne'er-do-wells -- Captain Hook (Ian McShane) and Snow White's Evil Queen (Susanne Blakeslee), among them -- to rise up against the heroic characters.

So, astride witches' broomsticks and accompanied by fearsome "Wizard of Oz"-like anthropomorphic trees, they fly into Far Far Away, wreak havoc on the town, and capture Shrek's wife, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and the other princess divas, Cinderella (Amy Sedaris), Snow White (Amy Poehler) and Rapunzel (Maya Rudolph).

Shrek hears of this dismaying news, and with the help of retired wizard Merlin (Eric Idle) gets magically, if clumsily, transported back home so they can rescue Fiona and liberate the kingdom. (In the process, Puss in Boots and Donkey end up in each other's bodies, making for more amusing silliness, and Murphy and Banderas are in top form.)

Writer and co-director (with Raman Hui) Chris Miller's latest installment has a somewhat darker edge (for example, the king's death and funeral and the destruction of the town), though there's no stinting on laughs. (And there are plenty of witty asides and smart cultural references -- like the opening jibes about dinner theaters -- to keep adults smiling as much as the kids.) So, too, the animation is better than ever, and visually the film offers a rich palette.

The careful emphasis in Miller's script on good values such as believing in yourself, sacrificing for others, eschewing violence and trusting in mankind's innate goodness override the occasional crude and mildly suggestive gags, which necessitate the A-II classification, but which many parents may choose to overlook in a story decked out with such a positive message and so obviously kid-friendly on the whole.

The film contains implied ogre nudity, some mildly off-color humor and innuendo, and the death of the king. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

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Forbes is director of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. More reviews are available online at www.usccb.org/movies.


Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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