Shrek the Third was among Paramount’s early HD-DVD releases, so it makes sense to have the film mosey onto Blu-ray in the relatively early days of the studio’s re-introduction to Blu-ray. In fact, considering the nearly year-long gap between the HD-DVD and Blu-ray versions, maybe Paramount and Dreamworks are hoping consumers will have forgotten that the third Shrek outing wasn’t nearly as strong as the first two, with a cute but yes-it’s-getting-old-now plot in which Shrek searches for King Arthur and sires a litter with Fiona. Like the other trilogy-cappers during the summer of 2007, Shrek The Third stumbled into and out of theaters with not quite as much personality and, consequently, not quite the same commercial success. However, Paramount is apparently trying to make good with franchise stalwarts, because while most of the Blu-ray release is a direct port of the HD-DVD version, there are a few instances where it’s clear Dreamworks has tinkered between releases. That’s not to say the changes are numerous or all for the better, but at least one of them is, and at least Dreamworks tried.
Shrek The Third follows Shrek and Fiona, who are wrapping up their honeymoon period and are faced with the death of Fiona’s dad, the King of Far Far Away. Shrek is asked by the King to take over the throne, which he doesn’t want to do, of course. Remember, our stinky friend wants nothing more than to return to the swamp — a desire he’s had since the first movie. Sure enough, Shrek bolts out into the countryside with Donkey and Puss in Boots to find Arthur, the long-lost “other heir” whom the King unveils on his death bed. With Merlin and a few other new characters thrown in for good mix, the predictable plot has some fun moments, although the film isn’t any less tired than it was last summer.
Ironically, for as far as the narrative and personality have dropped since the first Shrek, the series’ multimedia values have gone equally far in the opposite direction. Computer-animated films are some of the best showcase pieces for HDTVs and Blu-ray Disc players, and Shrek the Third shows why. The VC-1 encoded video looks essentially identical to the film’s HD-DVD release, with bright colors, realistic shadows and bloom effects, and incredibly sharp character models. The biggest difference — and this is compared to all animated-movie releases, not just Shrek the Third’s HD-DVD version — is that Shrek the Third on Blu-ray almost no depth of field. For some reason, Dreamworks softened very few background elements, which shows off amazing detail but feels a bit awkward in light of most films’ differentiation of objects in the foreground from the background. Dreamworks did upgrade the film’s audio for its Blu-ray transfer, though, opting for a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack (the HD-DVD version only had Dolby Digital Plus 5.1). The surround-sound channels benefit the most from this upgrade, which is a nice, nuanced change for a film created entirely from digital sources.
As expected, every bonus feature from the HD-DVD version found its way onto this Blu-ray release, with the Animators’ Corner being among the best and most notable. This picture-in-picture feature runs the entire length of the movie in storyboard format. While you watch the film, a frog icon will periodically appear that, if clicked in time, lets you watch related deleted scenes. In addition to being an effective use of picture-in-picture, this feature is a refreshing break from the standard behind-the-scenes and making-of information you normally see on PiP tracks. That’s not to say those things aren’t included on the disc, of course; Shrek the Third has several, including the 10-minute Meet the Cast, the 10-minute Tech of Shrek , 25 minutes of Lost Scenes and two minutes of Big Screen Goofs. It’s just that those featurettes are really more of the “standard fare” and don’t really stand out that much. Ditto for Shrek’s Trivia Track (a popup-video track of production tidbits) and The World of Shrek (biographical trivia about the film and actors); both are well done, but they’re identical to the HD-DVD version and are quite pedestrian.
Unfortunately, several bonus features that stunk up the HD-DVD version also translated over to Blu-ray: Donkey Dance, a one-minute mock music video of Donkey doing the “Safety Dance” from the 1980s; Big Green Goofs, a two-minute “feature” of bloopers; and Dreamworks Animation Video Jukebox, a collection of trailers for the studio’s animated films. With the first two being so short, they really feel pointless, and the last one doesn’t even include films that have been formally announced for release on Blu-ray, so the previews seem without purpose as well.
Seeing Shrek the Third on Blu-ray is nice for those who missed it on HD-DVD (or the theater), but early adopters who own(ed) both HD formats will find very little to justify purchasing the BD version. As a largely direct port, the film doesn’t really maximize is BD-50 dual-layer disc. Yes, its audio track has received a much-needed upgrade, but outside of that addition, it really seems like Paramount could have released this on Blu-ray even earlier than they already are. The crispness of the video is hard to top, but the disconcerting lack of any depth of field makes the video feel almost as awkward as it is sharp. With any luck, Dreamworks will give a bit more attention to the Blu-ray debuts of the first two Shrek films — whenever they happen to appear.
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- Score: 7.4
- Incredibly sharp video is undone by its reluctance to blur ANYthing, and the bonus features are direct ports from HD-DVD that required no thought. At least the audio got a nice upgrade.
— Jonas Allen