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May 18, 2007 |

By Phillip Stephens | Film | May 18, 2007 |

We here at Pajiba are heartened by the steady increase in readership over the nearly three years of our existence, as we slowly pick up like-minded readers who stumble across the site via some LiveJournal link an existing reader has been nice enough to post. But, I can’t help to think that mainstream success will forever elude us unless we shake up our style, change our tagline to “Adoring Reviews for Kitten Lovers,” and feature paparazzi pics of celubutard hoo-ha (celebuha!) so that the Wal-Mart masses will finally love us. It hurts my feelings to see some guy leave a comment on, say, the Bangable list, suggesting that he’ll “never understand (we) indie geeks,” or decrying our choice of that “trashy Gyllenhaal over the classy (Katie) Holmes.” It’s like a sucker punch to the breadbasket. Why must people post comments warning, “Nerd Alert,” while Gene Shalit gets all the accolades? I can make puns and perm my hair. Why not me?! I need a Groucho Marx mustache, goddamnit.

So, I’m shifting gears now — I’m going to write a review that might appeal to those who drink wine with Cervidae on the label or the non-disabled folks who drive around in those motorized carts in grocery stores because walking is just too much effort. I want to convert those who attend mega-churches with popcorn and intermissions into Pajiba readers — if you watch “Deal or No Deal” religiously, well, this is your new home. In fact, I feel the need now to explain the etymology behind our site name; Pajiba, of course, means “low low prices at the expense of sweat-shop labor and horrible working conditions,” and by “horrible working conditions,” I mean “hilariously crippling kicks to the testes” while stitching together sneakers for $.12 an hour. Also, I’m going to wear a gender-reversing fat suit while I write reviews and celebrate the glorious works of the greatest living actors of our time, John Travolta, Tim Allen, and Nicolas Cage. Oh, and Ashton Kutcher. I’m hitting all the hallmarks, aren’t I? This is what the great swath of Middle America likes, right?

But, first, we don’t want to lose our current audience after the millions of Perez Hilton readers invade our site (we’re going to need more bandwidth, Seth), so this Coxian mini-review is for our “old” readers (for our newfound audience, please skip ahead):

Here is a list of things that I find more pleasurable than watching Shrek the Third: Mowing the yard; a mild case of scoliosis; the burning sensation that accompanies the need to urinate; an Amanda Bynes/Hillary Duff buddy-cop flick; reading spam for an hour and a half; a malt-liquor hangover; hopscotch on roller skates; the Pussycat Dolls reality show; a reversible vasectomy; Crash Test Dummies cover bands; local productions of Lord of the Dance; office birthday celebrations; televised candle pin bowling; bingo night in America; Proactiv infomercials (the ones with Carmen Elektra — Shrek the Third is better than the Jessica Simpson ones); the last half hour of “SNL”; YouTube videos that double as law firm advertisements; the Republican debates; and, of course, Hugh Jackman on Broadway. To those out there with nagging children who will pester you until you sit through Shrek the Third and buy the tie-in McDonald’s Happy Meal afterwards, all I have to say is: You poor bastards. Take a book, a penlight, and maybe a drop of whiskey you can rub on your child’s gums. It’s going to be a long hour and a half, and I say this as someone who actually liked the first and second Shrek installments.

All right — old readers, you can go back to doing your “indie geek” stuff now. Go watch Bottle Rocket or “Firefly” or listen to Modest Mouse or the new Wilco album on your iPods. Dorks.

For everyone else: Shrek the Third is a romp in the old Far Far Away stomping grounds that will put a smile on your face bigger than a Cheshire Cat listening to Huey Lewis’ greatest hits. It may not be as hilarious as the first two Shrek movies, but it’s an ogre of a good time that will delight children of all ages who have longed to return to the familiar world full of hip fairy-tale characters and that lovable green monster with a fondness for swamps and irreverent humor voiced by the talented bad boy Mike Myers, taking a break from the hilarious adventures of Austin Powers. In addition to all of your old favorites — Fiona (the beautiful Cameron Diaz), Donkey (Oscar-nominated Eddie Murphy), and the mischievous, swashbuckling Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) — Shrek the Third introduces a few new characters that bring magical new life to the adventures of our old pal, Shrek.

The newest chapter in this once upon a time begins with the Frog King, who croaks (ha!), leaving Shrek next in line to serve as king. Shrek, however, only wants to take Fiona and return to his old home, full of sewer-ripe happiness and the harmonious hymns of his own farting noises. So, Shrek — along with his usual co-conspirators, Donkey and Boots — set off to find the only other heir to the throne, Arthur, from the Camelot myth (voiced by Justin Timberlake — and if JT were to write a song for Shrek the Third, it’d be called “HootBack” or “Awesomeback”.) However, Shrek also discovers, as he’s about to set sail, that Fiona has an ogre in the oven, news which is met with the typical fears about becoming a new Dad — hilariously trembling slapdashery! They discover Arthur at a prep school, where his father had abandoned him at a young age. Artie is a gangly loser, a nerd cast off by even the chess dorks at his school. So, he’s happier than Pinocchio at wooden rhinoplasty convention to learn that he’s set to become King. And how!

Meanwhile, Price Charming (the sly Rupert Everett), who has been relegated to the dinner-party circuit, is trying his best to entertain a hostile audience. However, he is frustrated with his position in make-believe land, so he decides to gather up all the fairy-tale villains in the kingdom and take over the crown — a coup de charming, if you will! While Shrek is away, Prince Charming and his merry men, including Ian McShane’s Captain Hook and the menacing Cyclops, invade the kingdom, lock up Fiona and her girlfriends Sleeping Beauty (Cheri Oterri), Snow White (Amy Poehler) Cinderella (Amy Sedaris), and even the cross-dressing Doris, voiced by Larry King (who gets to be a Queen for the day!), and awaits the return of Shrek so that Prince Charming’s dastardly plan can be completed.

Shrek the Third is a quick-paced and energetic sequel, clocking in at 90 brisk minutes, which makes it the exception to the normal bloated blockbuster fare. Certainly, it has a decidedly “been there, done that” feel to it, but I’m never one to turn away over-warm, heat-lamp leftovers if they are as tasty as Shrek the Third’s rehashed prodding of fairy-tale conventions. The introduction of newer blood, like Justin Timberlake, is genius, though his one brief crowd scene with Cameron Diaz’s Fiona is fraught with enough real-life tension to make even the audience uncomfortable, that is if you’re not too busy laughing at the subversive, multilayered humor that infiltrates literally every scene of the film. There are seven screenwriters for the third installment, and it’s obvious that they poured every bit of their collective talent into the script, shoehorning bodily functions and sublime fairy-tale puns at every turn. A lot of it may go over children’s’ heads (a “Ye Old Footlocker” shoe box — ha!), but parents will rejoice at the sophisticated humor — it’s not often that both kids and adults can get their happily ever after in one film! And given the success of the first two films, I have no doubt that Shrek the Third will rake in the big bucks, which is a good thing: I’m not ogre it yet! Here’s hoping that the last page hasn’t been turned on the Shrek fairy tale.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.

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