Virtually anything with a "4" after it's name is an exercise in disappointment - it's a sure sign of a tradition being carried on too long. In books and films (though not television, where a fourth season often means a show hitting its creative stride), it's generally an idea stretched too thin, characters with nowhere left to go, and plots that feel forced.
So, knowing that, why did I go to Shrek 4, a/k/a Shrek: This Has Gone On Too Long?
I have to admit, it's mostly the trailer. With its scattershot jokes at all sorts of modern, up to the minute trends and refusal to follow the fairy tale formulas, Shrek films were a somewhat subversive delight, the mass marketing of jaded cultural cynicism (a near perfect contradiction). And occasionally - more in the first two than the second two - the randy bits of humor wer enough to overlook the safe, reined in parts, and the fairly threadbare plotting that barely held it together.
Shrek: Forever After has little of the payoff of the others. It's not that the cultural commentary isn't there... it's just clear that no one, especially, tried very hard.(which is especially unfair to Eddie Murphy's still inspired turn as Donkey - all that puffed up showmanship has nowhere to go). But, in retrospect, the latest Shrek doesn't necessarily sit all that far from the others: and perhaps the real problem with the whole series is that the Shrek films have never, ever believed in real magic.
[And though I rarely do this, I feel it's only fair to say in this case, the review deserves a Spoiler Alert. I'm going to bring it key plot points of all four films]