Culture

Bizarre and Chaotic: 'Shrek the Third' is a $160 Million Dollar K-Hole

For the fifth edition of our Corona Film Club, we feasted upon the third (and most deranged) film in the Shrek series. It features: singing frogs.
16 April 2020, 12:35pm
Shrek the Third review
Photo: Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo
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A VICE UK column that fills the isolation for those self-isolating due to the coronavirus pandemic​. We’re watching and discussing a film with readers every week.

VICE UK’s Corona Film Club is back in business, baby. For our fifth edition, we trained our quarantined eyeballs onto the greenest hunk in the movie ‘biz, Shrek, in the infamous Shrek the Third film.

The original idea had been to feast upon the titular ogre’s debut 2001 film, Shrek. Sadly that didn’t happen, as the overlords who control what films go where decided to remove Shrek from Netflix and whack it on Disney+ instead. That left us just one Shrek film on Netflix – the third one.

Anyway, like usual, we hosted a viewing party on Wednesday night via Netflix Party, where we were joined by VICE readers. About halfway through viewing however, things took a turn. The Netflix Party window appeared to have been overridden and instead of Shrek, it showed a video featuring Wikileaks footage and an appeal to write to your local MP to protest against the extradition of Julian Assange. This played on loop and the film never returned. Confused? Yeah, we were too. We'll be posting a follow-up piece later this week.

Back to the party, pre-hack. The room was lively, fun, and great. The below discussion of Shrek the Third is a selection of comments from that chat, as well as some thoughts we received over email. VICE UK staffers Lauren O’Neill and Ryan Bassil jumped in too. Check whether your observation made the cut below, and if you’d like to suggest a film for next week, you can do so by emailing coronafilmclub@vice.com. Next week’s flick will be announced on Monday 20th April – keep your eyes peeled for more info via our website and our socials, @viceuk on Twitter and Instagram.

IS THIS FILM ANY GOOD?

Lauren O’Neill: Yeah it’s great, to be honest. I still think that Shrek is one of the cleverest animated movies there is – there’s so much mileage in the whole “what if fairytales but self-aware” format that it feels like the writers would have to be actively *trying* to come up with a bad plot. If I had to criticise I would say that, ahem, this instalment of the Shrek saga, like the others, relies heavily on slapstick comedy, but sadly it does not land as well here. Also, there’s no “All Star” by Smash Mouth. But these are a minor qualms. Otherwise it’s a *romp*.

Ryan Bassil: Is Shrek the Third good? Debatable. Is it a wild, manic, unhinged animated frenzy? Very much. Doubling down on the bizarre curios that made the original film one of the most memeable animated flicks of all time, the third in the series is a lawless helter-skelter ride through the fictional land of Far Far Away that feels part acid trip, part deranged studio execs taking one of the hottest film properties of the 2010s as far as they can.

“Prince Charming” [Netflix Party]: It’s so chaotic.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

LO: King Harold – who is now a frog for some reason probably intrinsic to the plot of Shrek 2 that I’ve forgotten – is dying, and Shrek and Fiona, as his son-in-law and daughter, are the heirs to his throne. Shrek is like “nah” because, famously, he loves his swamp and is quite shit at royal duties, so he goes to find the next heir to the throne, Arthur, who is in medieval high school (would have watched a spinoff movie about this).

Meanwhile, Prince Charming has been relegated to doing dinner theatre for bored guests. One night they laugh at his performances, which essentially radicalises him into the belief that he is the rightful king of Far Far Away. He goes to drink away his sorrows and recruits a band of fairytale villains to his cause.

The two plotlines merge; carnage ensues!

RB: Set in a future from the first and second film, things have hotted up for our married green duo. High up in royalty these days, Shrek and Fiona are so noted among the Far Far Away kingdom they make headline news. In this case… because they’re the heirs apparent to the throne. They also have kids (Fergus, Farkle, and Felicia). It’s weird. The froggy king lad (King Harold) is dying. When he finally croaks, a load of animated froggies sing the Wings song “Live and Let Die” (from the James Bond film of the same name) in unison. Captain Hook, Snow White – all the fairy legends are in the film, alongside Shrek stalwarts Pinocchio, Three Piggies and the Gingerbread Man. It cost 160 million to make. Justin Timberlake is in it. It’s completely berserk.

“Donkey” [Netflix Party]: This should be sent to aliens to tell them about humanity.

“Daze” [Netflix Party]: And we wonder why aliens haven’t contacted us yet.

Alex Macdonald [Email]: He's big,
He's green,
He loves a quarantine,
Ogre, Ogre, Ogre,
Oi, Oi, Oi!

OK, BUT WHAT IS IT *REALLY* ABOUT?

LO: The subtext of Shrek the Third is that it’s actually an intense marital drama that centres on Shrek and Fiona’s relationship, childhood trauma, father issues and commitment. Fiona wants to have a baby ogre but Shrek – scarred by his father’s (literally) ogre-ish nature – is reticent. However, he bonds with Arthur over their respective daddy issues, and, after a brief slip, characteristic of Shrek’s tendency to push others away, he realises that he is not his father after all. He ends the film as a father of twins, having wrestled with his demons. Inspiring.

Jack Swindlehurst [Email]: A deranged, acid-riddled recluse who lives in a rundown shack endures his maddest trip when he is transported to a fairytale dystopia. A miniature donkey uses him as a puppet to fuel his sick obsession with dragons. Meanwhile our hero begins to realise his life can only continue without the acid, so he embarks on a personal journey to begin to love himself, and see people for who they really are.

WHAT ABOUT THE ACTING?

LO: Everyone is great but you truly do have to hand it to Antonio Banderas whose performance as Puss In Boots – cinema’s numero uno horny cat – is truly inspired. I also think Eddie Murphy as Donkey is probably the greatest animated movie voice acting ever?

RB: Yeah, I agree on Eddie Murphy being sick. The day the UK lockdown was announced I watched Shrek, the first one, for the first time in probably over a decade, as a bit of a comfort watch. Beside how utterly deranged the entire film still is, what stood out was Eddie Murphy as donkey, because he’s fucking fantastic. I actually googled whether Murphy wrote some of his own jokes for the film (he didn’t), but yeah – good stuff from him there, and again here.

WHO'S THE DIRECTOR? WHAT DID THEY DO HERE?

LO: The director is Chris Miller who also provided a number of voices for the movie – we stan a polymath. His finest moment was including “Live and Let Die” on the soundtrack and having it be sung by a frog chorus.

Miles Louis Baker [Email]: Shrek gud :-)

BEST SCENE?

LO: The aforementioned frog chorus was my highlight, but elsewhere I enjoyed the scene where the fairytale princesses give Fiona relationship advice, I guess because it’s one of the bits aimed at "the adults".

RB: The frog scene, definitely. It’s just so fucking weird. For a start… why are they frogs? We do not know. Why are they singing “Live and Let Die”? Someone died, yes. But still.. bit weird for a funeral. Very dramatic though. Imagine going out, into the fire, incinerated, as “Live and Let Die” blasts from the tinny overheard speakers in the crematorium. Not sure if that’s one for me when I die, so take notes, but it is a look nonetheless. A powerful yet chaotic vibe.

WHAT'S COOL ABOUT IT?

LO: I will say it again: “frog chorus.” Also as I mentioned earlier, I do just think that you could make endless variations on the Shrek theme and whatever you came up with would rule. There’s so much you can do with stories, like fairytales, that everyone knows. This one has fucking Merlin in it and it’s great! I think the fact that this is the third film in the Shrek franchise and it still feels relatively "fresh" is a real testament to that fact – I’m not sure how many other animated (or live action!) series I can say that about.

“Daze” [Netflix Party]: They tried to illustrate what a K-hole looks like.

Connor Bruce [Email]: Shite x

DOES IT ILLUMINATE OUR CURRENT PANDEMIC PREDICAMENT?

RB: Shrek is the ultimate isolater. The first film is about how he’ll get his swamp back, so he can live there alone. After several months of not going much further than big Tesco, maybe we’ll all develop a mild to severe agoraphobia rendering us our very own version of Shrek, albeit with access to Deliveroo.

LO: I feel like we can all take some inspiration from Shrek, who loves his swamp so much that he would rather be there than go near another soul except for his beloved wife. For the sake of reducing the spread of coronavirus we should all treat our homes like our personal Shrek swamps.

Edwin Mitchell [Email]: Somebody once told me the world is gonna roll me,
I ain't the sharpest tool in the shed,
She was looking kind of dumb with her finger and her thumb,
In the shape of an "L" on her forehead,
Well, the years start coming and they don't stop coming,
Fed to the rules and I hit the ground running,
Didn't make sense not to live for fun,
Your brain gets smart but your head gets dumb,
So much to do, so much to see,
So what's wrong with taking the back streets?
You'll never know if you don't go,
You'll never shine if you don't glow,
Hey, now, you're an all-star, get your game on, go play,
Hey, now, you're a rock star, get the show on, get paid,
And all that glitters is gold,
Only shooting stars break the mold...

@ryanbassil & @hiyalauren