HAPPY FOUR EVER AFTER; Our favourite ogre has recovered from Shrek The Third with a return to form.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER *** U
THE first Shrek was a blast. Irreverent, subversive and funny. Shrek 2 was one of those rare things - a sequel on a par with the original.
Then came the uninspired and rather stale Shrek The Third.
Although a box office hit, the heart, charm and wit that made the first two movies so great had vanished - just like magic.
It seemed like the multi-billiondollar cash cow had been milked dry. But this being Hollywood, the box office is mightier than Puss in Boots's sword.
And hey presto, we have the next and supposedly final instalment of the franchise.
The good news is Shrek Forever After is a big improvement on the ogre's third (mis)adventure and the film's writers have got round the problem of where to go with the story without much repetition.
After all, Shrek (Mike Myers) has found his "happy-ever-afters" three times already.
Taking a leaf out of last year's Star Trek reboot and adding a splash of It's a Wonderful Life, Dreamworks have shipped Shrek off to an alternative reality where Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) don't know him.
Worse, the land of Far Far Away is ruled by a nasty scene-stealing Rumpelstiltskin (a fab Walt Dohm), all thanks to Shrek's mid-life crisis.
Having grown weary of fame and family responsibilities, he pines for the good old days of scaring people, basking in warm mud baths and living up to his reputation of being a terrifying monster.
"I used to be an ogre," he moans. "Now I'm just a jolly green joke". No, that was just Shrek The Third.
The diminutive, resentful and scheming Rumpelstiltskin has a cunning plan to give Shrek what he wants and to get his revenge.
As we discover, he once had a chance of taking over the kingdom but it was inadvertently foiled when Shrek rescued Princess Fiona in the first movie.
Rumpel tricks Shrek into signing a deal that allows him to experience life again as a regular ogre for a day, in return for giving up a day from his childhood.
He signs the contract without reading the small print and gives away his birthday.
Soon, Shrek is stuck in a parallel universe with his actions leaving him hours to live and he has to make Fiona fall in love with him again to help break the spell with a "true love's kiss".
There are some funny moments, from the Gingerbread Man (Conrad Vernon) to all the scenes involving Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas).
Rumpelstilstskin and his army of Wizard of Oz-lookalike wicked witches are inspired and the perfect choice for Shrek baddies.
But there's a persistent melancholy that underwrites the action and mood of the movie.
It is funny but could be funnier. Still, it's charming, heartfelt and a fitting swansong for the ogre and a franchise that should have ended once upon a long, long time ago.
The wait now, of course, is for Toy Story 3, released later this month. I'll tell you now that Woody, Buzz and co are so good they'll make Shrek even greener with envy.
MOVIE REVIEWS & RATINGS
***** EXCELLENT - A MUST SEE
**** GREAT - CATCH IT IF YOU CAN
*** GOOD - YOU'LL ENJOY IT
** AVERAGE - TAKE CARE
* AVOID - LIKE THE PLAGUE
FEELING BLUE: Our hero misses his old life. Crafty Rumpelstiltskin, right, offers him the chance to go back to his past TEAMWORK: Shrek needs to win Fiona over again or risk losing everything