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Shrek the Third

Talented comedians, hit singles can't make Shrek the Third better than predecessors

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Genre: Computer-animated feature

The pitch: As next in line for the throne of Far Far Away, slovenly ogre Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) shirks his duties by trying to enlist the only other heir, meek teen Arthur (de facto king of pop Justin Timberlake). Meanwhile, evil Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) leads a rebellion of fairy-tale villains against Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz).

Money shots: Whether parachuting or tap-dancing, the evil gnarled trees prove to be big scene-stealers. Charming puts on a lavish stage show that features a fairly witty spoof of contemporary Disney songs. The trailer spoils some good gags, such as Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas) bidding farewell to a "real" cat more interested in grooming her paw, and Pinocchio speaking in circumlocutions to avoid lying.

Bathroom humor: Part of the plot concerns Shrek's fear of fathering, so it's heavy on jokes about baby barf, burps and stuff coming out the other end. More disgusting is the cuteness of the adorable ogre babies, which seems hypocritical from a film that mocks the cloying nature of Disney fairy tales.

Creative voice casting: A virtual sorority of talented comedians speaks for Fiona's princess pals: Amy Sedaris (Cinderella), Amy Poehler (Snow White), Maya Rudolph (Rapunzel) and Cheri Oteri (Sleeping Beauty).

Hit single: With "Royal Pain" and "Losing Streak" both on the soundtrack, eels appear to be this film's Smashmouth. Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas sing "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" on the closing credits. Snow White sings a cheery tune like the 1937 Disney character, which morphs into Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," then segues into Fergie belting "Barracuda" as the princesses storm the castle.

Best line: Captain Hook ("Deadwood's" Ian McShane) menaces the Gingerbread Man with the words "Avast ye, cookie!"

Worst line: Shrek attempts to "relate" to young Artie by using outdated slang like "whack" and "oh no you di'int." The fact that it's intentionally lame doesn't make the hurt go away.

Fashion statements: Touchy-feely New Age Merlin (Eric Idle) wears a night shirt, no pants and socks with sandals. Cinderella sharpens her glass slipper and hurls it like a boomerang. "Versarchery" and "Ye Olde Foot Locker" are two pun-based bits of product placement.

Body count: One major character croaks -- pun intended -- leading to a funeral with a band of frogs singing Wings' "Live and Let Die" in the film's biggest "Huh?" moment.

Better than the first two? No. The first Shrek at least put an unusual spin on fairy-tale clichés, and Shrek 2 lobbed pop references at the audience with a little energy. Smug and self-congratulatory, Shrek the Third takes perfunctory potshots at such cutting-edge topics as high school, dinner theater, hippies and vain, snobby Heather types, but never dares make fun of itself.

The bottom line: If you want to see a film with coarse jokes about an amiable ogre afraid of parenting, hold out a couple of weeks for Knocked Up. Seth Rogen from that film even has a tiny voice role as a sea captain.

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