I'm Joe Morgenstern, the film critic of The Wall Street Journal.
At one point in "Shrek Forever After" the hero sees his face on a poster nailed to a tree and says, "Sure is great to be wanted again." Wanted, yes, but needed? Not on the strength of this fourth and presumably last installment. Now it jogs and lurches but mostly meanders though a story that tests the limits of true love (Shrek's, and ours.)
The starting point is domesticity. Shrek has a loving wife in Fiona, and three cute kidlets, but he's undone by doing diapers and has fallen victim to the kind of toothless fame that overtook Buffalo Bill. To reclaim his inner ogre, Shre signs a scontarct with Rumpelstiltskin tha makes him a Ogre For a Day. But the contract dramatise, if nothing else, the importance of reading the fine print. Before you can say "Its A Wonderful Life," Shrek is plunged into an alternate universe where hand and Fiona have never met,, old friends like Eddie Murphy's Dinkey and Antonio Banderas's Puss I Boots don't know him and Fiona has taken command of a guerilla army that's resisting Rumpelstiltskin's ruthless rule.
The film has its intermittent pleasures: landscapres rendered in enchangting colors; the mysterious charm of Banders's delivers, which gets laughs from every ones of his lines; a witches' ball, allowed by the witches pursuing Shrek through the 3D spaces of a palace. (It's easy to take computer animation for granted until a set piece like that one leaves you absolutely dazzled.)
But its' important to read the fine preint in screen plays too. This one turns out to be a recycling machine that recalls the high points of previous installments without showing the need for a new one. Although there's some suspense in whether Shrek will be able to break Rumpelstiltskin's contract with an out clause that turns o n the power of a loving kiss, there's also a sense of filmmakers searching for whatever will help fill the running time. Ninety-three minutes isn't a long time, but some of it passes very, very slowly.
"Solitary man" stars Michael Douglas as a vulgar womanizer - a girlizer , really - and a serial lecher who uses sex to avoid the twin terrors of mortality (he's got hear problems) and personal failures (he sabotaged his career as a super-successful car dealer). The movie seems to view its antihero, Ben Kalmen, as a kind of upscales Willy Loman. yet he's so dislikable, and Michael Douglas's performance is so devoid of any saving nuance, that you keep wondering why the young women Ben hits on, and the young man he befriends - he's played, not very well, by Jesse Eisenberg - don't tell the agin creep to buzz off the moment he opens his mouth. "solitary Man" intends to be shocking, and it's been getting some respectful reviews. But ticket buyer beware - the film's real shocker is its unpleasantness.
I'm Joe Morgenstern, and I'll be back on KCRW next week with more reviews.