'Shrek the Third': Crack Comedy, and Plenty of Gas

Misunderstood giants? None have ever been as popular as Shrek, star of two huge summer hits since 2001. Paramount's grumpy-green-ogre franchise is the epitome of the hand-hold movie: family flicks that serve up action, tomfoolery and life-lessons for the kids, nonstop pop-culture in-jokes for the adults, and fart jokes for the whole family.

Shrek the Third isn't a great hand-hold movie (like The Incredibles, say, or Finding Nemo), but it's a flat-out triumph of comedy writing. Computer-animated movies with wall-to-wall jokes can be unbelievably irritating, but these jokes are the best money can buy.

There are more of the parodies and inspired vocal turns that enlivened Shrek 2. Justin Timberlake proves engaging as the heir who might keep Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from having to assume the throne, and the face-off between the villainous Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) and Shrek turns out to be something of a nerd's dream in which wit conquers good looks. Shrek the Third has a few clunkers — but its slob-happy worldview still has its old appeal.

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