CD Review: Shrek Forever After

I really dislike the SHREK movies. There I said it. What could have been inspired spoofs of classic fairy tales instead ramped up the pop culture references with junky animation, laying the formulaic groundwork for a slew of mediocre Dreamworks animated films. Because the films were so ramshackle in their story construction and so ADD in their direction, Harry Gregson-Williams‘ scores suffered from a lack of focus as well.

I’d had enough by the end of the second film so I didn’t have much interest in SHREK FOREVER AFTER. If the reviews and the dismal box office are to be believed, the film ends the series on a limp note. But I’m happy to report that the same can not be said for Gregson-Williams’ score. Gregson-Williams contributes a score that is more cohesive, full-bodied and emotional than the previous installments.

A five-note danger motif and staccato stealth theme accompany the mortgage lender, who just also happens to be “Rumpelstiltskin”. Cues like “Shrek Signs the Deal” incorporate some wicked violin solo work as Shrek signs a Faustian bargain with the evil little trickster.

[audio:shrek1.mp3]
Click Track: Shrek Signs the Deal

That emotion I mentioned earlier is on display in tracks like “The Exit Clause” and “Rumpel’s Announcement.” The solo lines, whether on flute, violin or French horn, supply the touching moments that are always too few and far between in these films.

[audio:shrek2.mp3]
Click Track: Fiona Doesn’t Love Me

If the action cues seem like standard animated fare, at least they’re well written, orchestrated and performed. Some of the cheekiest musical delights are a regretably-too-brief Straussian (Johann, not Richard) waltz in “Din Din!” and the Baroque fugue of “The Main Event”. And what would a SHREK score be without the memorable Scottish-flavored main theme that musically ties the series together.

While earlier scores in the series were as schizophrenic as the films they accompanied, SHREK FOREVER AFTER seems to follow a clearer path from beginning to end. Along with the track titles, I was able to reconstruct the story through the music. Whether that is a result of the score itself or how it has been sequenced for the album, no matter. It works.

If you’re a Harry Gregson-Williams fan, you’ve probably already added this to your collection. Will the score convert new fans? Maybe not. But it made me rethink my rather meh attitude toward Gregson-Williams’ work. SHREK FOREVER AFTER is a thoroughly enjoyable score that ends the series on a higher note than it began. And how many sequel scores can boast that?

Film Score Click Track [rating:3.5/5]

7 comments

  1. Good review Jim. Agree with you on most counts. I still think that I’ve heard Shrek better before, but if this is the last Shrek (and let’s hope it is), it ends on respectable terms.
    .-= Jorn´s last blog ..9 Great Horror Scores From the 80s =-.

    1. I re-listened to all of them again before I started writing this review. I was so bored by all of them. Serviceable, but nothing more. This is the only entry where I felt Gregson-Williams created something cohesive. Then again, those earlier films didn’t exactly allow him that privilege. How he did it for this one, I don’t know. But I’m glad he did.

      1. I am listening to the first Shrek score. It has a lot more energy and excitement about it. Powell did the fun Dragon cues but Williams did the major themes. Quite a good team that. Sad to see them break up and hope they come back together one day, but Powell seems to be thriving at the moment at animated scores so I am not complaining :)
        .-= Jorn´s last blog ..9 Great Horror Scores From the 80s =-.

        1. The energy and excitement that you find in that first score reads to me as too many disparates styles. I much prefer this last installment. Maybe because my expectations were so low. As for Powell, I’m not complaining either. :) Now, where is that DRAGON soundtrack? Hmm…

          1. Well the styles between the two composers are quite similar in the first Shrek. If I didn’t know better I would think it was all done by one composer. They were like twins back in the day, but what is it about Powell and dragons? He always seems to make great music when dragons are the main ingredient.
            .-= Jorn´s last blog ..9 Great Horror Scores From the 80s =-.

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