Just forget the words and sing along

Friday, October 29, 2010

Scared Shrekless

Over on my Facebook page, I was recently taken to task over my recent blog post where I cry woe over Cars 2, Pixar's recent discovery of sequels, and how DreamWorks started the whole thing by taking each and every film of theirs with a modicum of success and beating it to death with an endless stream of sequels.  Apparently, some 3 year olds read that blog post and were heartbroken.  After I stopped patting myself on the back for having some 3 year old fans, I started being amazed that 3 year olds can read blogs.  They grow up so fast these days....

Anyway, I can't be too mad at DreamWorks Animation for beating each and every dead horse they unleash on the screen.  They actually have a sound business strategy for it.  DreamWorks has said that the whole point of their endless streams of sequels is that they're trying to build a stable of beloved animated characters.  You know, Warner Brothers has Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and the whole Looney Tunes gang.  Disney has Mickey, Donald, Goofy et al, and DreamWorks is hoping to make a universe out of Shrek, Po the Kung Fu Panda, and Ben Stiller the talking lion.  And the only way DreamWorks is going to do that is through constantly exposing us to these characters. 

And as part of their constant exposure is a new line of holiday specials featuring the DreamWorks characters.  It all started in 2007 with the Shrek Christmas special.  It continued last year with the Monsters vs. Aliens Halloween special and the Madagascar Christmas special.  And it kept going last night with Scared Shrekless, the Shrek Halloween special.  I thought I'd check it out of curiosity, mainly because brand new animated holiday specials don't come around that often anymore.

So, as the special begins, as you can imagine, ogres love Halloween.  Shrek, Fiona, and their triplets are having a grand old time scaring the pants off of trick-or-treaters.  Donkey, Puss in Boots, and some of your other favourite supporting characters unsuccessfully try to scare Shrek, only to have Fiona remind them that they're ogres:  "We do the scaring.  We don't get scared."  Disbelieving this statement, Donkey and Puss in Boots propose a contest.  They'll spend the night telling spooky stories.  And whoever tells the scariest story will be proclaimed King of Halloween!  Shrek gets the bright idea to raise the stakes by taking their contest down to Castle Duloc, which you may remember as Lord Farquaad's fortress way back in the first movie.  Apparently, it's lain in ruins since the end of the first film, and is now reportedly haunted by Lord Farquaad's ghost.

OK, here's where I've got to give the special kudos for being clever.  I still kind of like the first film -- you know, before they ran the premise into the ground -- and in their journey back to Duloc there were lots of wonderful callbacks to the first film as we saw everything in a new, spooky light. 

They settle into the ruins of Farquaad's throne room and being telling their spooky stories.  The whole thing then devolves into a ripoff of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror as we're treated to some parodies of horror stories featuring Shrek characters.  We've got:

The Bride of Gingy - Gingy the Gingerbread Man implores the Muffin Man to make him a Gingerbread Lady.  However, Gingy throws too much sugar into the mix, turning his bride into an obsessive, stalkerish, crazy lady.  Gingy thinks he disposes of her by tossing her back into some mixing batter, but this only turns her into a horde of zombie brides. 

Boots Motel - This tale is told by Donkey and Puss in Boots.  What starts off as a simple Psycho spoof soon turns into pure slapstick as Donkey and Puss in Boots come up with more and more outlandish ways to off each other. 

The Shreksorcist - Shrek's tale is a spoof of The Exorcist, as Shrek is called upon to be babysiter for a possessed and demented Pinocchio.  The usual round of head-turning-around and projectile-vomit-pea-soup jokes are in full force.  However, the punchline, concering the revelation of the voice in Pinocchio's head, is priceless. 

Fiona and the triplets show up, masquerading as Farquaad's ghost, and it's enough to scare off the rest of the supporting characters and for Shrek to win the contest.  Shrek, Fiona, and the triplets then cap off Halloween by egging the Seven Dwarfs.  "I am not Happy!" exclaims one of the dwarfs, thus ensuring DreamWorks won't get sued by Disney. 

And that was Scared Shrekless.  A few clever jokes couldn't salvage it from being more than an endless stream of repetitve slapstick gags.  I was really glad that they got back to what made the first film so great:  slamming Disney and the typical fairy tale conventions.  But yeah.  It just got too silly and too stupid after a while. 

If you'd like to see it for yourself, it's going to be on again on Saturday night.  And they advertised quite heavily that A Kung Fu Panda Christmas is coming in one months time.  You go, DreamWorks.  You work to make Donkey as beloved as Chip n Dale.

And for any three year olds whose hearts I may have broken with my comments, come on.  Come here.  Sit down with me on the couch.  I first saw this movie when I was about your age and I still love it to this day.  Let's watch it together, and you'll see it's a much better movie.  It's called Star Wars.   

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