American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
"Shrek the Third" is a damped-down return to the Kingdom of Far Far Away, lacking the comic energy of the first brilliant film and not measuring up to the second. From the thrills of dragon-slaying and damsel-rescuing, Shrek's challenges have been reduced to a career decision: Should he become the king?
The movie is as visually enchanting as the first two in the series, and the big green ogre (voice of Mike Myers) is as gentle and lovable, but the movie settles for action that it trusts is funny, instead of aiming for comedy itself. Another peculiarity is that the plot will probably not be engaging for younger audience members, who understand dragons but don't care that uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Shrek spends too much time in lachrymose conversation with his bride Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) and pondering the challenge of fatherhood, and not enough time being an ogre.
Indeed, Shrek is the only character in the movie who makes a big deal about his ogrehood. The king and queen (voices of John Cleese and Julie Andrews) have long since embraced their son-in-law, and on his deathbed, the frog king reveals that Shrek is an heir to the throne — one of two, including the feckless Artie (voice of pop star Justin Timberlake). Shrek demurs, preferring life back in the swamp in what Fiona describes as his "vermin-filled shack."
Why would Fiona, raised as a princess, accept life in such a dreary mire of despond? Recall from "Shrek" (2001) that she was a conventional princess only by day, and became an ogre after nightfall. When she was rescued from marriage to Lord Farquaad with Shrek's kiss, she became an ogre full-time. Before that she was a human, I guess, although her father was a frog. Inter-species reproduction is so common in Far Far Away that it makes irrelevant such questions as whether Kermit and Miss Piggy ever had sex. Remember that the dragon and Donkey fell in love in the first film. For someone like me who has never understood how birds and snakes do it, thoughts of their marital adventures boggles the mind.