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Shrek the Third; U Featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas Directed by: Chris Miller (1hr 33mins) * * *.

WHEN King Harold, the beloved ruler of Far Far Away, dies the realm cries out for a new ruler.

The king and his wife Queen Lillian intend Shrek (Myers) and Princess Fiona (Diaz) to rule, but Shrek is unsure the loyal subjects would take kindly to an ogre on the throne.

So the rotund hero and loyal sidekicks Donkey (Murphy) and Puss In Boots (Banderas) embark on an odyssey to track down the rightful heir, Fiona's teenage cousin Prince Artie (Justin Timberlake).

Back in Far Far Away, Fiona prepares for the birth of her first children, surrounded by a gaggle of broody admirers: Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Meanwhile, calculating and vain Prince Charming schemes to claim the crown for himself, aided and abetted by nefarious storybook characters including Captain Hook and wicked stepmothers and witches.

VERDICT: Chris Miller's colourful tale of paternal angst is lazy and, in the middle act, dull enough to send parents and youngsters off to the land of nod. With Shrek the Third, the series has clearly run out of ideas.

The eponymous ogre and his wife are the least interesting characters in the film. Apart from a dream - or rather nightmare - sequence in which Shrek imagines his hovel overrun by cute, vomit-spewing babies, he and Fiona would almost be surplus to requirements. Donkey and Puss steal all the laughs, the few there are, while Eric Idle is squandered as Merlin, whom Artie confides "was the school's magic teacher until he had a nervous breakdown." Shrek, Fiona and co get their happy ending, but for audiences, Miller's film falls short of the greatest fairytale never told.

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SNOOZE TIME: Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz) and Shrek (Mike Myers) with their babies.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 29, 2007
Words:289
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