Earlier in this summer movie season, just after watching Spider-man 3, I uncorked my theory that relates the demise of a film franchise to the release of its third installment. It's where filmmakers, who are asked to build upon the wave of success generated by the first two films in a series, fail to realize the need for something new in the third installment. The result is most often a resounding thud. Sure Spider-man 3 was something special at the box office, but that franchise has unquestionably suffered a crippling blow. I had high hopes that Shrek the Third would avoid a similar fate, but I'm sad to report that it falls well below expectations. The Third Installment Disintegration Syndrome, or TIDS, claims another victim. And with the release later this summer of the third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series, we wait with baited breath.

The first two Shrek films found success with snappy dialogue, rapid-fire pop culture wittiness, and clever Disney digs that are unfortunately missing from The Third. Not to mention that Shrek himself loses some of his ogrish charm as he's transformed from a crotchety, stinking ogre with an image crisis into a loving family man more interested in raising children than wallowing in his own filth. The film is still sometimes a bit funny, and there are some truly fuzzy moments sprinkled throughout, but it just isn't fresh anymore. We've seen it all before and now we want something new. Is it really still funny when Puss in Boots stares at the camera with those over-sized, sympathetic eyes? No. It was hilarious when he did it in the last film, but here it's just warmed-over rehash.

In the land of Far Far Away, Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) find themselves at the helm of the kingdom upon the passing of King Harold (John Cleese) whom we remember was turned into a frog at the end of the last movie. But Shrek wants nothing to do with the crown so he sets out with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss (Antonio Banderas) to find the next in line for the throne, cousin Arthur (Justin Timberlake) who is holed away in his own living hell high school. And as if the unwanted burden of being king wasn't enough for Shrek to deal with, he discovers an even more imposing challenge upon his departure. He's going to be a father.

Upon their return with the boy who would be king, Shrek, Donkey, and Puss learn that Prince Charming has his own plans for the future of Far Far Away. Seems he, Captain Hook, the Wicked Witch, Cyclops, the trees from the enchanted forest and the rest of the evil villains from fairy-tales past, have taken over the town, and captured Fiona, the Queen (Julie Andrews), and other visiting princesses. All hope to impose their own brand of ill will against the citizens of Far Far Away. That is unless the heroes can stop them.

Co-directors Chris Miller and Raman Hui, along with no fewer than 5 screenwriters fail to give us anything new to laugh at. And the heart of the film is missing, as Shrek seems to have lost the identity we loved so much. However, so as to not sound like a complete party-pooper, there is one scene big enough to almost save the entire film for me. As the princesses concoct a scheme to take back the city, Snow White breaks out of an overly-sweet Disney ballad - complete with forest animals dancing at her side and falls into the screech of Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song. The scene turns dark and the animals become ravenous as the attack begins. I found myself laughing at this harder than most in the audience, but for some reason it was just a golden moment for me. And how can one not like it anytime Gingy is on the screen. He has become the new "Donkey" by stealing every scene he is in.

There's enough good and funny stuff in here to entertain the children, and what would the Shrek franchise be without some great life lessons such as "you are who you are, not who others say you are?" But the film falters when it fails to bring any new wrinkles to the table. In other words, TIDS strikes again. Here's hoping that Pirates can break the string of poor luck.


DVD Details:

Screen Formats: 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; French; Spanish

Language and Sound: English: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentary; additional scenes; interactive games.

* Featurettes
o Artie's yearbook
o Shrek's guide to parenthood
o Lost scenes
o Tech of Shrek
o Big green goofs
o Learn to donkey dance
o Shmash up: make your own video!
o Merlin's magic crystal ball
o Tournament games

Number of Discs: 1 with Keepcase Packaging