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HD DVD Review: Shrek the Third

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When I first started getting into the high definition movie versions, I was blown away by what the HD DVD and Blu-ray formats brought to the home entertainment systems. Anyone who hasn’t seen a high-def movie in one of these formats – with the appropriate hookups and equipment, and I do mean a monitor capable of producing a high-def experience – really has no idea of the video quality that can be produced.

But Shrek the Third was my first HD DVD experience. I really didn’t think the video quality would be improved that much because this was animation, not film. I was wrong. The intensity of the color and the sharpness of the images was drastically improved. I’d seen the film in the theater (the movies are family favorites, after all) but getting to see it in the comfort of my own home on a clear screen only a few feet away trumped that experience. It’s a few extra dollars for the high-def versions, but I’d recommend them if the rest are like this. Now I can hardly wait to view the Blu-ray version of Ratatouille I picked up.

Another difference between the regular DVD and the HD DVD is that the DVD has a reformatted version of the film, cut from 1.85:1 to 1.78:1, and the HD DVD hasn’t been reformatted.

The story seems to have split some of the fans. Some think the third movie brought just as much to the picnic as ever, while others thought the series is starting to show its age. I was totally happy with it. No matter how hard you try, you can’t recreate that breath of fresh air that was Shrek.

The problem is that our subconscious minds have had time to play with the idea of Shrek and how things would go if he were pulled from his natural habitat and placed somewhere else. Therefore, when he was King Harold’s stand-in as ruler of Far, Far Away, I immediately figured out many of the punch lines before the film got to them. That’s because the character is so real I could easily imagine those scenarios for myself. When Shrek was playing king, I knew things would go badly. It was the beginning of the movie and that’s when everything goes badly.

Mike Myers did an incredible job of voicing everyone’s favorite ogre, and his sense of timing was just as good as ever. Eddie Murphy soared as Donkey. Cameron Diaz is still the perfect Princess Fiona. Antonio Banderas scores big-time in his triumphant return as Puss-in-Boots.

Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) returns as our villain, and he’s even more evil than ever. Doesn’t mean he’s going to be successful though, but he does make for some show-stealing moments that had me rolling on the floor with my ten-year-old as we watched the movie again.

The plot hinges around the fact that Fiona’s father, King Harold (John Cleese) who was the original frog prince, has finally kicked the bucket (they never used the word croaked and I know I wouldn’t have been able to resist). It looks like Shrek and Fiona are doomed to inherit the kingdom.

Desperate, they look around and remember there is another heir. Arthur, the boy king who took the sword from the stone, is currently in school. Knowing he’ll never be happy as king, Shrek undertakes the quest to return Arthur to Far, Far Away. Before he leaves, though, Fiona tells him she’s going to have a baby. The nightmare Shrek has about have millions of babies crawling everywhere has to be seen to be believed, but as a father I can tell you that his fear is pretty much spot on.

The usual madcap action ensues, and that’s what I think really splits the viewers. Several people went to see the movie expecting to see something different. But the people behind Shrek have figured out what makes the series work, and they’re sticking by it. I think it’s great, but some of the pieces do feel a little too familiar, but that’s okay because some of my favorite stories are ones that I’ve heard over and over.

However, the whole switching bodies thing that went on between Donkey and Puss was waaaaayyyyy too familiar to suit. It was funny for a while, but felt like it dragged on too far. And you knew what all the best punch lines were going to be all ready.

But the movie was an enjoyable romp. When all’s said and done, that’s all it’s supposed to be. The HD DVD package also comes with a lot of extras especially made for it. The Animators Picture-in-Picture Interactive Storyboard feature is really good and gives some insight as to how the movies all come together. Learn the Donkey Dance is going to be another favorite. There are a lot of deleted scenes and, of course, the singing fiasco at the end that’s become standard.

I liked the movie a lot, and so did my family. Even if Shrek the Third wasn’t an original treat, I don’t think the series stumbled or lost anything. One of my favorite parts were the Princesses’ attacks on the castle to save Shrek.

Music has always been a big part of the franchise, and the songs for this movie were all carefully chosen. They work well and really amp up the overall viewing experience.

I can’t wait for the next Shrek movie, though no one has officially said there will be one. But the Puss-in-Boots solo movie has been talked about since the second Shrek movie. I hope that one comes to pass as well.

If you haven’t tried the HD DVD experience but are thinking about adding one to your home entertainment system, think about picking up Shrek the Third. That’s the only format you’re going to get the whole movie in as it was intended to be shown.

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