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After the ludicrous and unlikable third movie, my hopes were not high for a fourth installment. It had been another three years, but could the filmmakers right the Shrek ship and bring the franchise back into relevancy after the third film had all but destroyed its creativity and imagination? The short answer: Yes!
We owe much of the success of the fourth film to its hilarious and oft times neurotic villain Rumpelstiltskin. It's kind of funny, because the third one features an entirely different Rumpelstiltskin who is in Prince Charming's band of misfit villains. In 'Shrek Forever After' he's been updated and given a more cartoony, caricature feel. It's always nice when Dreamworks goes with more caricatures for humans instead of making them look exactly like humans. Their animation of the townsfolk has always been a little off and lifeless.
Instead of relying so much on fairy tale references, 'Shrek Forever After' seems to take quite a bit of influence, oddly enough, from 'Back to the Future 2 ,' and 'It's a Wonderful Life.' See Rumpelstiltskin has entered into a magical contract with Shrek in which he can find out what everyone's lives would've been like had he never been born. Shrek is having trouble coping with his marriage, the kingdom, Donkey, and his rambunctious young kids. On top of that, everyone wants him to act like an ogre whenever prompted. He just wants peace and quite. In a moment of desperation he signs the contract and finds out the hard way how much everyone does indeed love him.
'Shrek Forever After' returns to the series' high-flying action roots. The story moves fast and furious as Shrek soon finds out that Rumpelstiltskin has put some fine print into the contract that could end up keeping Shrek in this world of the unknown forever, while Rumpelstiltskin sits on the throne and looms over the kingdom like Biff does to Hill Valley in 'Back to the Future 2.'
My expectations for a fourth 'Shrek' movie were scraping the bottom of the barrel. I didn't expect much at all, and I was happy to have my cellar-dwelling anticipation lifted sky-high after watching the last film. It's a perfect way to end the series.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Paramount Home Entertainment offers 'Shrek Forever After' to 3D Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack. Sitting comfortably on opposing panels, the first is a Region Free, BD50 while the second is a Region 1 locked, DVD-9 containing all the special features. The Blu-ray disc commences with a trailer for 'Puss in Boots' before switching over the standard main menu selection with full-motion clips and music. Of all four movies, this is the only release which offers both 3D and 2D versions of the movie, which can selected when pressing "Play."
Now this is more like it! Not only does the fourth, and supposedly final entry, in the 'Shrek' franchise, come with a stupendous finish, but it also arrives on 3D Blu-ray with a spectacular 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1). None of the video artifacts seen in the previous three discs are to be found here. Well, except for maybe a wee-bit of ringing in few spots, which could be seen as ghosting on some displays. Thankfully, it's nowhere near as severe as the other movies and could very easily be ignored unless we really pay attention to it. But as for the rest of the picture, it is superb and bests the first three in every way imaginable.
The digital-to-digital transfer is razor-sharp, exposing the smallest, tiniest feature on trees, roads and on the walls of various buildings. Each thread and stain of Shrek's shirt is perceptible, Fiona's warrior apparel shows the signs of wear and battle, and the skin complexions of both characters' faces are plain and beautifully textured. Whether we're talking about Fiona, Rumpelstiltskin, Donkey or Puss, individual hairs are stunningly distinct and move with shocking realism. Primaries are richly-saturated and the softer pastel hues provide a bold, welcome warmth. Contrast is pitch-perfect with brilliant, crisp whites while black levels are inky and luxurious with flawless shadow detailing.
In the 3D realm, the movie simply shines, with one impressive sequence after another. Isolating it from the pack is consistent dimensionality from beginning to end. Even the most unpretentious scenes with simple conversations between characters are handsomely layered with superb separation of the foreground from the background, such as Shrek and Rumpel's exchange inside the magical creature's carriage. The video doesn't come with many pop-out gimmicks, but there are several instances of objects protruding from the screen which are quite amusing. The transfer's best and most impressive aspect is the level of depth, making it often seem as if characters really move within a three-dimensional space. The highlight is Shrek's escape from the castle on a broomstick. Or is it the final battle scene with all the ogres? Either one makes this an excellent 3D Blu-ray.
The excitement continues with this amazing Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack which shockingly pushes your system nicely. The front soundstage is continuously active with clean, well-balanced channel separation, delivering lots of startling off-screen effects that are convincing. Imaging is excellent and expansive, creating a marvelous soundscape that's very welcoming and warm. Dialogue reproduction is outstanding with every joke and witty pun perfectly heard in the center of the screen. Dynamic range is highly detailed and extensive with remarkable clarity in the score's orchestration and the high-flying action.
Like the first three discs, rear activity in these movies can be rather astonishing, but 'Shrek Forever After' seems to have them fairly well beat. As before, the music of Harry Gregson-Williams plays a significant role, filling in the few empty spaces and keeping viewers engaged. This time around pop songs appear to occupy the fronts with small bleeds in the back. But this is just fine since their playtime also happens to be during actions sequences. Directionality in those scenes is striking and fluid, generating a wonderfully immersive 360-degree soundfield which put listeners right in the middle of the commotion. Other times, atmospherics take over for ambience and keep the feeling of envelopment going. Best of all, the subwoofers get a healthy workout with an appreciably deep extension and a punchy response.
Like the three movies before it, a few of the same bonuses are ported over to this 3D Blu-ray edition, but only available on the DVD.
After a poorly-executed second sequel left fans terribly unsatisfied with the direction of the series, 'Shrek Forever After' saves the franchise with a wonderful story about appreciating the good things in life. The plot comes with a clever twist that forces our giant, green hero make friends and fall in love all over again while introducing fans to hilarious new character in Rumpelstiltskin. The Blu-ray comes with a stunningly beautiful 3D presentation and an equally brilliant lossless audio mix. Supplements are nothing special, but fans of 3D HD will want this in their library nonetheless and will find it more than satisfying. Highly recommended.