Having finally had his fairy tale ending, Shrek (Mike Myers) discovers that family life with his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and three kids hasn't left him happy ever after.
Longing for a return to his footloose days as a fearsome ogre, Shrek makes a deal with shifty shorty Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) to get one day of his old life back, but the devious dwarf double-crosses him.
Finding himself in a twisted alternate version of the land of Far Far Away, Shrek is shocked to find that he has never been born and, as a result, the kingdom is now being run into the ground by new ruler Rumpelstiltskin. Discovering that the only way to undo the spell is to make Fiona - now a tough revolutionary - fall in love with him again, Shrek must endeavour to win her heart once more.
If you're having trouble getting ogre-enthusiastic for this fourth Shrek adventure, rest assured that it's a vast improvement on the lacklustre Shrek the Third. When the original Shrek film made its debut in 2001, its refreshingly bitter-sweet tone and irreverent fairy tale references made it a real treat for both wideeyed kids and cynical grown-ups.
Three films on and these elements are still present but, with a plot that sees Shrek having to revisit past glories, there's inevitably a sense that the filmmakers are trying to do the same. That's not to say that Shrek Forever After isn't enjoyable, the It's a Wonderful Life-style plot is sturdy enough and there's a generous smattering of smart gags. Although some new voice cast members - particularly Jane Lynch as a female ogre - are squandered, Myers and Eddie Murphy (Donkey) are once again in their element, as is Antonio Banderas as a hilariously porky version of Puss in Boots. The fey and fiery Rumpelstiltskin and his mute henchman The Pied Piper are worthy additions, however, and the impressive animation gives this particular fairy tale the look of a sumptuous pop-up book.
Much better than its predecessor, but not a patch on the original, Shrek Forever After would be a respectable point for the irritable ogre's tale to end.