Shrek The Third left critics longing for a time long ago when DreamWorks' regaled them with laughter and whimsy. Instead No.3 in the fairytale franchise is merely a "serviceable" CG caper. And yet, with new voice talent including Justin Timberlake and, er, Eric Idle, the studio suits were bound to rake in the greenbacks.
According to producer Aron Warner in Meet The Cast, Timberlake "helped us find who Artie was." But wait, isn't that the scriptwriter's job? We see the so-called 'trouser snake' at work in the recording booth (voicing the rebellious Artie) along with Eric Idle as Welsh wizard Merlin. Of course series regulars like Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy also chip in, trying to explain the massive appeal of the big green ogre. Meanwhile the Worcestershire Academy Yearbook gives a text-based breakdown of the cheerleaders, fair maidens and spell spinners who round out the supporting cast.
Shrek's Guide To Parenthood is one of a handful of naff interactive features. The main characters dispense useless and frankly unfunny child-rearing tips (e.g. Puss in Boots: "Always hold the baby by the scruff of its neck"). Apparently the animation team will laugh at anything as revealed in three lost scenes on disc one. Rather than showcase the scenes fully realised, the animators pitch them to each other using storyboards. Among the comic incidents, Artie tries and fails to woo a young Guinevere and tussles with a fire-breathing dragon. Another deleted scene, Doppelganger, is presented in the final stages of animation on disc two.
The Magic Of Megabytes
Pushing the CGI envelope is always a major preoccupation for DreamWorks and The Tech Of Shrek reveals how the "computer infrastructure" has evolved to allow for more fancy hairstyles (good news for Rapunzel), more intricate costumes and smoother flowing baby vomit. Of course things do occasionally go wrong in the research-development phase and those are played for laughs in the Big Green Goofs reel. Parents be warned: disembodied ogre heads may freak out younger viewers.
The remaining extras in the Collector's Edition are simple, albeit glossy-looking, fluff. The Green Grub recipe book shows kids how to make green popsicles, green cookies and green beverages (guess what, a lot of green food colouring) whilst Merlin's Book Of Magic shows them how to cook up trouble with ancient potions and cheeky card tricks. Shake his Crystal Ball and Merlin will fob you off with a sarcastic comment.
A selection of music videos, dance classes, picture galleries and games round off the bonus disc. There are lots of bells and whistles, but for older movie fans, precious little in the way of behind-the-scenes scoop. Not exactly the fairytale package then, but enough to keep the little monsters amused.
Shrek The Third: Collector's Edition DVD is released on Monday 26th November 2007.