The King of Far Far Away (John Cleese) is dying and while he is on his deathbed, Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) undertake some of his vital duties. These are less than successful and when the King pops his webbed clogs, Shrek goes is search of the other royal heir so that he can go back to his swamp for a bit of peace and quiet.
Meanwhile, the previously ousted Charming (Rupert Everett) has his own plans for a happy ending and sets about rounding up the traditional fairy tale bad guys in order to take over Far Far Away while Shrek is gone.
Occasionally, you can have too much of a good thing. Dreamworks were on to a winner with the original Shrek in 2001, and followed it up wonderfully with Shrek 2 three years later. The formula for Shrek The Third is very similar to the previous films in the franchise but the comedy and spark that drove the originals appears to have faded.
The introduction of new characters into Shrek 2 was what kept it fresh over its predecessor, but there is no Puss In Boots-esque hero addition in The Third. Some existing characters have been given a larger role (mostly in the case of the villains) and the only huge addition is the irritating Arthur (Justin Timberlake).
There are still plenty of humorous moments, but many of the jokes feel recycled. Donkey and Puss are criminally underused, especially as they had such a great camaraderie in the first sequel and are instead brushed aside by one of the most annoying animated characters in history. Because of this irritation it is difficult to empathise at the end when the back story of "Artie" is revealed.
Even the big finale that we came to know Shrek for is silenced. There is a song, Eddie Murphy is able to get a few lines in, and then the credit roll. Nothing like the celebration of well-known music combined with hilarious background dancing that the ended the previous films. It is clear that the change of director to Chris Miller and Raman Hui had a detrimental effect.
Perhaps it is unfair to criticise Shrek The Third based on the rightly earned success of the franchise (it still looks as pretty as the others, after all), but if the original had been set out like this, William Steig's loveable ogre wouldn't be nearly as popular as today.
It has its moments, but is generally disappointing.