Shrek the Third (2007) [HD DVD]
R0 - America - DreamWorks Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jari Kovalainen (11th December 2007).
The Film

The “Shrek” franchise has been the true success story in the field of computer-animations. “Shrek (2001)” and “Shrek 2 (2004)” also managed to challenge the mighty “Pixar” studio both artistically and at the box office. With the latest film in the series - “Shrek the Third (2007)”, the box office numbers stayed high, but it’s now fair to say that the “artistic”-side hasn’t kept up with the earlier films. New director/co-writer Chris Miller and co-director Raman Hui have made an entertaining film, but the one that doesn’t offer much surprises or new ideas to the series.

Shrek (Mike Myers) and his wife, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are living comfortably in the King Harold’s (John Cleese) castle. Or they should at least. Shrek is not very happy and he misses the good old “ogre-days” in the swamp. Since King Harold (now a frog) is on his death bed, Shrek is the next in line of being the rightful king of “Far Far Away”. That is the last thing that Shrek wants. He squeezes the name from the King; there’s a man called Arthur, who’s the last remaining heir. Getting him to rule the kingdom would finally lift the heavy burden from Shrek’s shoulders once and for all. This Arthur has to be found first, though, so Shrek and his trusted friends Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) sail off to locate the mystery man. There are still more worries for Shrek on the horizon, since just after the boat sails, he hears that his wife is pregnant.

In the meantime, the bitter and selfish Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) is about to execute his new, evil plan. His aim is to be the next king of “Far Far Away”, quite opposite to what Shrek is trying to achieve. He’ll gather all the fairy tale “villains” (idea that resembles the other recent animation film “Happily N'Ever After (2007)”), aiming to take over the kingdom by fear and force. Shrek has a tough job ahead, since the “man called Arthur” is actually a young academy student called Artie (Justin Timberlake) from the medieval “Worcestershire High School” and the whole boat crew find themselves crashed on the island, where the odd, retired wizard Merlin (Eric Idle) lives. The future of the kingdom is again in the hands of the green ogre. They just have to get back to the kingdom, which is now in serious trouble.

“Shrek the Third” has some serious eye-candy, good voice actors and a happy, harmless mood throughout the film. But that’s basically it. It’s a bit surprising how “safe” and “comfortable” the film is and how little it’s exploring the countless opportunities that the computer-animation offers (story wise, that is). It seems that the filmmakers have relied on the familiar characters and their familiar jokes to keep the fans happy. No risks are taken. Sure, Shrek is always lovable and one of the best modern animation characters created, but this time even Donkey and Puss fail to support Shrek. They’re mainly hanging out. Granted, the film introduces new characters, but only a few of them are really memorable. Queen Lillian’s (Julie Andrews) “Princess posse” is probably a good idea on the drawing board, but fails to really materialize in the film (well, at least in my opinion). Captain Hook (Ian McShane) is fortunately a pretty good character and e.g. “talking trees” visually interesting, but like many other aspects in the film, also the “villains” fall mostly short. There’s no energy and just too little action from their part.

For me, the best moments are delivered by the Gingerbread Man AKA Gingy (Conrad Vernon) and Pinocchio (Cody Cameron - also additional dialogue/story artist), who are one of the rare characters in the film that truly made me laugh (“amusing” is the best way to describe the humor, since the film is generally no laugh fest). The highlight of the film is the small scene where Gingy has his whole life flashing in front of him. Those “wild” and inventive scenes are truly missed in this film. “Shrek”-films have always mixed old fairy tales imagery to the e.g. modern music and that is the aspect that works pretty well in the third film also (the use of Led Zeppelin is pretty cool). Also the High School students are acting and talking like the modern kids now, only the sets are from medieval. These details can be fun, but not nearly enough to save the film.

“Shrek the Third” follows the similar pattern throughout the film. There are many interesting scenes and good opportunities, but which rarely (with a few exceptions) truly materialize into something unique. The real fun, real action and real laughs are missing from the film and I have to wonder why e.g. some of the “Lost Scenes” from the extras didn’t make it to the film. They could’ve made the difference that the film needed. Now “Shrek the Third” is just “another sequel”, sadly.

Video

“Shrek the Third” is released by “DreamWorks Home Entertainment” (distributed by its parent company “Paramount Pictures”), so along with the SD DVD, it’s only available in HD DVD. The film is presented in 1.78:1 widescreen (1080p 24fps) and is using VC-1 compression. I’m sure it’s no surprise to anyone that the results are quite stunning. Since the full digital source has been used, the image is totally clean, sharp and very rich in the terms of details and contrasts. Nearly every screen is loaded with great looking characters, objects and textures in both the foreground and the background.

The (often diffused) lighting style is very film-like and natural (in terms of computer-animation, of course) and even the darker scenes reveal all kind of fine details. The colors are vivid and versatile, but they’re not as “digital like” like with some other CGI-animations (some scenes can be even a bit “dark” to someone’s taste). To me, “Shrek the Third” looked more like film than animation - or at least it does a great job combining the two “styles”. If you look very carefully, you might see that some of the finer textures can get a bit restless in the background and perhaps there were very minor edge enhancement around a few objects, but generally this is definitely “reference material”. The visual world of “Shrek the Third” is moody and full of life at the same time. “HD-30”-disc is used and there are 18 chapters. The disc is “R0”, like all the HD DVD-releases worldwide. The film runs at 92:40 minutes.

Review equipment: Sony Bravia KDL-40W2000 LCD (1080p) + Toshiba HD-XE1 (1080p), via HDMI cable.

Audio

Three Dolby Digital Plus 5.1-tracks are included (I couldn’t confirm the bitrates myself, so they’re taken from another sources); English (1.5 Mbps), French (448 Kbps), and Spanish (448 Kbps). English, English HoH, French, and Spanish subtitles are included. “DreamWorks/Paramount” continues to drop the lossless-option even from their “biggest” HD DVD-releases, but the English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1-track sounds fortunately very nice. There are plenty of surround activity, loud musical sequences and directional sounds. Everything is clear and crisp. I can’t say that this is the best - nor natural, 5.1-mixes that I’ve heard (since everything is built in the studio), but it does the job just fine. It’s just not hugely different from the other similar films and perhaps not always that dynamic.

Extras

HD DVD includes all the disc extras from the SD DVD-release (while adding a few HD exclusives), only “Worcestershire Academy Year Book”-interactive feature and DVD-ROM “Shrektivities”-extras included in the R1 SD DVD are missing. Extras have optional English subtitles. Note, that while the main feature is in VC-1, HD-based extras are using mainly AVC MPEG-4 compression.

-High Definition Exclusive Bonus feature: “The Animators' Corner” -storyboard feature uses the “Picture-In-Picture” mode. Smaller box appears to the right corner of the screen during the whole film, showing also the storyboards. This is very interesting to animation-buffs, but perhaps not the first choice for the rest of the viewers. Interactive-part of this feature includes the “Lost Scenes” from the extras section. When you see the “Shrek-icon” on the screen, you can access the “Lost Scenes” during the film by pressing “enter” from your remote.

-“My Menus”-option allows to choose from the different In-Movie Menus (meaning the menu that pops up during the film if you choose to press “menu”). Options are “Shrek”, “Donkey”, “Fiona”, “Puss”, “Gingy” and “Original”. While not a proper extra feature, this is also “HD exclusive”.

-Last “HD exclusive” extras includes Web-enabled content (via Ethernet connection). I’m personally not very keen to download extra-material from the web and I first encountered some problems (only getting the “net0112”-error or the downloading seemed to take ages), but finally things were working. It’s also probably best to download the latest firmware to your Toshiba (version 2.7 to e.g. HD-XE1 and HD-XA2 at the time of the writing). If things are indeed working, you’ll reach the web-portal, which basically looks like additional extra-menu. From there, you can download (and delete afterwards, if you like) extra features and it shows the space used and available. The actual downloading from the web-portal was quite fast. Here are the extras now available;

*”Shrek's Trivia Track” plays instead of the subtitle-stream and includes “over 300” behind-the-scenes “fun facts” during the film. Info is not just Shrek-related.
*”The World of Shrek” -feature includes “Biography” and “Fun Facts” for numerous characters of the film. Some are based on the fairy tales, but many are just made up probably just for this HD DVD. Characters are divided into “Lead Characters” (Shrek, Princess Fiona, Donkey, King Harold, Queen Lillian, Puss in Boots, Prince Charming and Artie) and “Supporting Cast” (Dragon, Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio, Three Blind Mice, Three Little Pigs, Gingerbread Man, Captain Hook, Doris, Mabel, Rapunzel, Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Merlin). This failed to play on the first time (“Initializing data application…”), but going back and trying again helped. With “A”-button from your remote, you can switch between the feature and the film.
*”Donkey's Digital Coloring Book” -interactive feature is not yet available (“Coming soon”), but with this you can color different Shrek characters with digital crayons. Probably very nice for the kids.

Next we move to the extras that are the same on both SD DVD and HD DVD-releases. Under the “Extras”-menu can be found the following;

-“Shrek's Guide To Parenthood” -feature (AVC MPEG-4) let you choose the character, who then gives 5 parenting tips for Shrek and Fiona. Characters are “Donkey”, “Puss in Boots”, “Pinocchio”, and “Gingy”. Filler.

-“Meet The Cast Of Shrek The Third” -featurette (10:41 minutes/MPEG-2) shows the main cast in the recording studio, along with small interview snippets. Some of the creative crew is also heard. This featurette also basically introduces the new characters in the film and shows how the filmmakers used the real high school band for the “marching band” score in the film. Real cheerleaders were also used for the reference material.

-“The Lost Scenes of Shrek The Third” -featurette runs 25:50 minutes with “Play All”-option (AVC MPEG-4). Instead of proper “deleted scenes”, these scenes are “pitched” by the different members of the creative team, so you can hear the (acted) scene synopsis and see the planned storyboards (by the different artists). A few interesting concepts are left on the planning stages, especially the first against the dragon and the last one where Pinocchio and Gingy robots (!) attack. With the relatively short running time of the film already, I don’t fully see why at least some of these couldn’t be included in the final film. The scenes are as follows (one “HD exclusive” included):
*Fauxly Grail (9:22 min)
*Hot Lunch (4:36 min)
*Cyrano De Artie (4:24 min)
*High Definition Exclusive Bonus feature: Doppelgangers (7:26 min)

-“The Tech Of Shrek The Third” -featurette (9:54 minutes/AVC MPEG-4) delves into the technical side of the production and also compares the production to the earlier films. Since the computer technology (both hardware and the software) has kept evolving, the filmmakers could build better and detailed characters (in the terms of hairstyles, clothing and especially lighting). Also the secondary characters on the background looks now better and the animators could add more details to the big environments than before. Generally the motions of the characters are now better and richer.

-“Donkey Dance” -music video runs only 0:32 seconds (AVC MPEG-4). It’s what the title says; Donkey is dancing and singing.

-“Big Green Goofs” -featurette (1:55 minutes/AVC MPEG-4) is a “blooper reel” of some sort, mainly showing the “funny bits” during the CGI programming. Some are probably just early stages of creating characters (where are many different “layers” and sections), some just fooling around with the computer. In any case, these are only mildly interesting and not very funny.

-“DreamWorks Animation Video Jukebox” -music videos (AVC MPEG-4) includes sections from the different animation films by “DreamWorks”. They’re as follows:
*”Shrek (2001)” (1:14 min)
*”Shrek 2 (2004)” (1:20 min)
*”Shark Tale (2004)” (2:24 min)
*”Over The Hedge (2006)” (1:53 min)
*”Madagascar (2005)” (0:58 sec)
*”Flushed Away (2006)” (1:55 min)

-Bonus trailers (AVC MPEG-4) include “Bee Movie (2007)” (1:48 min) and “Kung Fu Panda (2008)” (2:27 min).

The disc has also additional “DWK - DreamWorks Kids”-sub menu, which includes the following features;

-“Merlin's Magic Crystal Ball” -interactive game (AVC MPEG-4) lets you hear some “wisdom” from the great Merlin himself. This means that you “think” of some “yes” or “no” questions and just click “ask Merlin”. Do I have to say more?

-“Learn The Donkey Dance” -featurette (1:41 minutes/AVC MPEG-4) start like the original “music video” earlier, but this time there are some guidance to the “dance moves” and you can hear the tune around three times. For the kids indeed.

-“How to Be Green” -featurette (4:00 minutes/AVC MPEG-4) gives some tips of how to “be green” (help the environment, recycle, ration water, use energy wisely and use the compost). These are all of course important, so make sure that your kids see this one.

While not considered as “extras”, the disc has minor additional option for you to play with;
-Bookmarks (which could come I handy, since HD DVD-side is lacking the “resume” function - a software problem, I believe).

The disc is packaged in a standard HD DVD case.

Overall

The third film seems to be the hardest one to pull through in Hollywood these days and around that time the director of the first two usually steppes down. “Shrek the Third” also has a new director and fresh visual look, but that´s where the new elements stop. Everything is kept too safe and sound, so be ready for the (at least minor) disappointment. HD DVD is visually top notch and the sound is not bad either, but the extras are either aimed for the kids (not necessarily a bad thing) or just too promotional. Few interesting extras (also HD exclusives) are still included.

For more info, please visit the homepage of Dreamworks HD DVD.

The Film: Video: Audio: Extras: Overall:

 


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