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Shrek's Mid-life Crisis: The final voyage needs a bigger forever 

I was introduced to Shrek in two ways. First was the commercial hype and McDonald's toys. The next time was when I was painting a kid's room. I heard a lot of muffled cartoony chatter coming from another room along with laughter from kids.

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I was introduced to Shrek in two ways. First was the commercial hype and McDonald's toys. The next time was when I was painting a kid's room. I heard a lot of muffled cartoony chatter coming from another room along with laughter from kids. I also heard some cool music from the likes of The Eels, Joan Jett and, shockingly, John Cale. I thought that someone must've had some alternative radio show going at the same time, but there it was: really cool music attached to the childlike phenomenon called Shrek. I checked out the first one, it was sharp and witty with enough humor for adults and fun for kids. I checked out Shrek 2 for about five minutes, lost interest and by-passed Shrek the Third entirely. This time I was curious as to what they've come up with for the grand finale.

Stuck in a rut of domesticity, Shrek is on the brink of running amok. Gone are his days of being a mean ogre, scaring people with his mighty roar and greenish bad looks. Now a dedicated family man, Shrek changes diapers, has play dates with Donkey's kids and tries to relax poolside with an eye-ball-tini. His house is a guided tour highlight and he autographs pitchforks for fans. Longing for the days when he felt like a "real ogre," Shrek is duped into signing a pact with an evil magician, the smooth-talking Rumpelstiltskin. Shrek suddenly finds himself in an alternate universe, where ogres are hunted, Rumpelstiltskin is king and Shrek and wife Fiona have never met. Now, it's up to Shrek to save his friends, restore his world and reclaim his one "True Love." Hokey for sure, but hey, it's a kid's movie.

All the big-time actors are back to lend their voices. Mike Myers as Shrek seems to be just barely going through the motions. and, for me, Cameron Diaz as Fiona proved disconnected - her voice never gels with the plump, cleavaged ogre chick we see on screen. Eddie Murphy reprises Donkey, keeping up the momentum once again with bad puns, one-liners and wretched songs. But the scene stealer is Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots, mainly because he's gotten fat. Then there's Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohr) who basically dominates the entire movie. Dohr does a great job for an unknown - I spent the whole movie trying to figure out which A-lister was providing the voice. Worth noting are the voices for some of the wicked witches who hunt and capture ogres for slave labor - Regis Philbin and Larry King. I'm not kidding.

One noticeable misfire was the choice of music this time around. The tunes really took a dive. The once cool alternative choices were replaced by pedestrian songs, including The Carpenters' "Sitting on Top of the World."

The computer animation is so disturbingly realistic that even though I opted against 3-D, it still felt like the characters were sitting my lap.

As far as grand finales go, this Shrek is pretty tame- - but entertaining. I would've gone with way more bells and whistles if this were my swan song. A mighty bottle of champagne was needed to send this franchise off in style. Even though kids' movies aren't my thing, Shrek Forever After wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

Shrek Forever After

★★✩✩✩

Starring Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas

Directed by Mike Mitchell

Rated PG

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