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.
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.
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?