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HD DVD Review: Shrek the Third

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Following a path like the series itself, Shrek the Third runs out of steam after the first half hour. The scattered laughs aren’t enough to carry this third entry into the same realm of success as its predecessors. It’s still enjoyable, but not the Shrek we all know and love.

Part of the problem is the lack of Shrek himself. The massive amount of characters, including Prince Charming, Fiona, Donkey, Puss in Boots, Artie, Merlin, and the Queen all need screen time. Shrek is almost secondary.

Compounding that problem, Shrek isn’t the hard-edged, sharp-witted ogre he used to be. He might as well be a fully human character. Aside from brief dashes mentioning his specific traits (size, odor), nothing in the dialogue plays up on his traits. Also missing are the pop culture references. Visual puns that made the originals so re-watchable are now gone.

Animation has greatly improved, and the level of detail in the characters makes the film truly beautiful. The looks can only save the dry spell Shrek the Third moves into past the opening montages and plot set-up for so long. A generic, predictable storyline isn’t strong enough to overcome the lack of laughs.

Exhausted is the only way to describe the movie's script. Rapid-fire gags are prominent and deliver, though only until the fuel runs out. Small dashes of the first two movies' brilliance are apparent in the bickering maidens (Snow White and Cinderella especially) and Donkey’s one-liners. Sadly, these are spread thin, and the entertainment value we’ve come to expect from this series goes with it.

Shrek the Third is hardly an awful movie, just a disappointment. The standards set by the prequels were astronomical, and this one falls into the wrong spot. The ending leaves some potential for an inevitable fourth, though it’s a small glimmer of hope in what should be a sure thing.

With a direct digital-to-digital transfer and VC-1 encoding, we have a new winner for best looking home media disc. If you truly appreciate animation, this is the only way you should be watching this film. This is a flawless video presentation.

There are no artificial filters or grain added. The video is crisp, clean, and pure. An overwhelming amount of detail is visible even well into the background on long shots. Clothing texture is preserved on a previously unseen level of sharpness. No visible compression artifacts show up, and the black levels remain rich throughout. The video has pop, and you’ll need to re-adjust yourself a few times to make sure this is CG, a compliment to both the animators and those who crafted this transfer.

Dolby Digital Plus is the order of the day in terms of audio, and sadly, it’s flat. The bass never seems to kick in when it should, leaving the on-screen action somewhat lifeless. Surround use is evident during the high-energy action scenes, though never as active as you would assume it should be. It’s serviceable.

Extras are numerous, though hardly informative. The Animator’s Corner is a running picture-in-picture feature with storyboards and deleted scenes playing during the film. Shrek’s Guide to Parenting has four characters offering their advice on raising kids in short individual features.

Meet the Cast is the obligatory behind-the-scenes look at the voice acting process, running 11 minutes. Four “lost” scenes are a breakdown of sequences that never made it to animation, delivered via storyboards by the creators. Tech of Shrek is a 10 minute rundown of how improved the tools are since the original Shrek was animated, while the countless plugs for two computer corporations are aggravating.

Donkey Dance is a 30 second clip of, well, Donkey dancing. Big Green Goofs lasts two minutes, diving into a number of animation errors that results in some amusing after effects. Dreamwork’s Video Jukebox has clips from eight different animated movies set to music, and as a bonus for visual buffs, all of these clips are in HD. The Shark Tale portion is a perfect showcase for that new HDTV.

Online features include a running trivia track, and at some point in the future, an online coloring book. Some goodies for the kids, including a rundown on how to do the Donkey Dance, are the final pieces to this disc.

The idea of downloadable extras on HD DVD are nice, but Shrek is the perfect example of how they can go wrong. Why are these features not on the disc in the first place if they’re available the day the disc is released? Secondly, why not have all of the features laid out on day one instead of making users wait for content that’s advertised?

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.