This third instalment of the saga of the lovable ogre begins with the newly-weds, Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz), filling-in for the ailing King of Far, Far Away (John Cleese). As he weakens further, the King asks Shrek to take his place or find Arthur (Justin Timberlake) the only remaining heir to the throne. Unwilling to relinquish his dream of returning to his swamp with his bride, Shrek heads off with faithful sidekicks Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss (Antonio Banderas), leaving Fiona and her royal friends to guard the castle.
Meanwhile, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), having been humiliated in Shrek 2, is determined to make his own "happily ever after" and recruits a band of ne'er-do-wells to storm the castle so enabling him to claim the throne for himself.
So begins the kind of adventure that we are now used to seeing in the Shrek films. This one is easily as good as the others with its usual smattering of toilet humour and rapid action sequences, all displayed in glorious animated form. In fact the computer-wizardry is even better than before. Lush forests, lapping waves and even mirror-reflections are nigh-on pixel-perfect.
The audience tonight mostly comprises parents and their kids and there are very few moments that don't raise a chuckle or shriek out of one of those groups. The Gingerbread Man's "extra jelly-tot" gets the biggest laugh out of the kids and Pinocchio's "not lying" scene tickles the adults the most. Again, the humour is pitched perfectly to suit all ages.
Just when you feel the writers may have ran out of ideas they throw in yet another twist, such as when Merlin (Eric Idle) uses magic to teleport Shrek and friends back home, only to have Donkey and Puss exchange personalities with inevitable hilarity. There are moments of musical genius too - watch out for the Frog Chorus singing "Live & Let Die" and the Snow White (Amy Poehler) version of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song".
The only notable criticism I have is Arthur's transformation from puny school-kid, who even the geeks bully, to brave and noble hero seems a little sudden to be believable. Despite this flaw, the character is instantly likeable, if a little slow-witted, and by the end the audience are all rooting for him. Certainly the choice of Justin Timberlake to voice the character is bang on the money and his portrayal of the sullen teen is believable enough to keep poor Shrek on his toes.
This may be the last we see of Shrek, save for the odd TV appearance (Dreamworks' are currently filming a half-hour TV special called "Shrek The Halls" which is due in early 2008), but this film has already done enough to make the smelly green giant one of the most successful animated characters of all-time.
Commissioned by the Local Secrets online magazine...