It’s always good to remember that It’s A Wonderful Life isn’t a comedy. It’s got a lot of funny parts to it—laugh out loud funny, even—but it’s essentially a dark, existential drama by its very nature: A man so overwhelmed that he considers his existence to be a negative to the world. The brooding darkness is essential to the plot.
OK, most of us don’t have to worry about this much. But those of us making kiddie movies based on It’s A Wonderful Life would do well to keep it in mind.
Which brings us to Shrek 4: The Final (Thank, God!) Chapter.
This time around, Shrek signs a deal with Rumplestiltskin (filling in for the Devil) to get one day away from his shrieking brood (triplets). The catch is, he has to give up one day to get it.
That day (unwittingly) being the day of his birth. (This is sort of awkward if you think about it, since Shrek has no parents even worth referencing once in the previous three movies.) And so, Shrek finds himself in Pottersville, in the form of Rumplestiltskin’s witch-laden kingdom, where there’s an ongoing war between the trolls (led by Fiona) and said witches.
It’s not bad. The Barb liked it. The Flower thought it was okay, as did the Boy. The Old Man liked it quite a bit (more than he would How To Train Your Dragon). But it is dark.
I mean, literally. For all the advanced CGI and what-not, the bulk of the movie seems to take place at night. And some place full of ogres.
Yeah, that’s one place where the movie really falls down: It’s A Wonderful Life shows us Bedford Falls, all the places and people who later change due to no George Baily, and despite having three movies behind it, the Far, Far Away of this movie doesn’t manage to invoke any fraction of that kind of resonance.
Which is kind of a shame, since you could have seen Lord Farquat and the evil Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming, and all the other baddies vanquished in the previous films. The setting was always a gag throwaway, but it seems like they could have made some callbacks.
Then again, maybe they did, and I just missed them.
Anyway, this is one of those movies where I’m probably the only one who cares one way or another about stuff like that. The kids liked it, forgot it quickly, and we moved on to the next summer film.