‘Shrek’ too big for its britches

“Shrek the Third,” like the title character’s head, is large, and in some aspects, too big for its britches.

The animation by Dreamworks is larger-than-life – really beautiful in some scenes and always stunning throughout. The hair on Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) looks so thick and wavy that that alone covered the cost of my movie ticket.

The soundtrack, likewise, is big-time and quite rocking with selections by The Ramones, Led Zeppelin and the Wings’ cover of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” So much better than some boring instrumental score.

The storyline, on the other hand, is all over the place, and as it tries to keep up with the computer-generated cartoons I’m finding myself disinterested. Too scattered, wandering and cumbersome to leave any sort of cerebral impact, but hey it’s “Shrek the Third” and your kids will love it.

Mike Myers (“Wayne’s World,” “Austin Powers,” Saturday Night Live, etc.) is back as the voice of the big green ogre and though it’s starting to get old he manages to pull it off. Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona, his ogre wife, is mostly charming if a bit stale.

The movie opens in the town of Far, Far Away, where Shrek is faced with kinghood. Fiona’s frog father King Harold (John Cleese) is ill and about to croak.

The ever accident-prone Shrek is next in line for the throne, somehow, but he is not all interested in the prospect of royalty. Before he keels over, King Harold identifies his nephew Arthur, a.k.a. Artie (Justin Timberlake) as the second possibility.

So off Shrek sails for the kingdom of Worcestershire, like the sauce, to fetch Artie and bring him back to Far, Far Away to be king. His friends, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) come along of course and these two sidekicks are pretty funny, as usual.

As he’s leaving the dock, Fiona informs Shrek that she’s pregnant, shocking news that sparks a series of dream sequences in which tiny Shrek babies multiply by the thousands. The big green ogre is nervous about being a father; it has something to do with his.

“My dad was an ogre. He tried to eat me!” he says.

What’s up? Even cartoons have daddy issues these days (big yawn). Still, Donkey seems pretty happy as a father. That’s right, he has a litter with his significant other, a humongous dragon. Won’t even try to imagine how that happened.

Shrek, Donkey and Puss in Boots finally arrive at the kingdom of Worcestershire, the land of adolescents. Here, kids rule, literally, but poor Artie is sort of a laughing stock, until he learns that he’s about to be king.

“I’m building my city, people, on rock and roll,” he says.

Meanwhile, a jilted Prince Charming conspires to take over Far, Far Away along with an army of other fairy tale losers like Captain Hook and Rumpelstiltskin. One of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters also gets in on the attempted takeover; she looks and sounds shockingly masculine, thanks in part to the voice of Larry King.

“The only thing you’re going to be king of is king of the stupids,” the Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon) tells Charming and that gets a laugh out of me.

That cookie is funny.

Back in Worcestershire, Artie is having second thoughts about being king when Merlin the wizard (Eric Idle) appears to set things straight or something like that – my attention is starting to wax deficient at this point.

(Insert gulp of Coca-Cola).

Merlin agrees to zap them all back to Far, Far Away (they had a rocky landing), and in the process switches the identities of Donkey and Puss in Boots. Ha!

“How in the Hans Christian Andersen am I supposed to walk around in these crazy boots?” Donkey as Puss exclaims.

And when Puss as Donkey attempts to give his sad eyes look (you know the one) to get them out of some predicament it doesn’t quite work. Ha again!

In yet another storyline, Fiona rallies all the princesses – Sleeping Beauty (Cheri Oteri), Snow White (Amy Poehler) and Rapunzel (Maya Rudolph) – to fight Prince Charming in his attempt to take over the kingdom of Far, Far Away.

Interestingly, all three princesses (the actresses who provide their voices) are current or past Saturday Night Live cast members.

The plots collide and “Shrek the Third,” as expected, has a happy ending, but what I’m most happy about is that it was only 90 minutes. I’m not a big fan of the big green ogre, but hey, it’s not because his head is so large.

Allison Brophy Champion can be reached at 825-0771 ext. 101 or [email protected]