YOU'RE AT SHREK FOREVER AFTER because you have kids and they are easily marketed to. You're sitting down in the theater about 30 bucks lighter because making your kids happy is of some importance to you. You know what you're going to get at this point, because you've survived three movies' worth of Mike Myers' garbage-assed Scottish accent and Eddie Murphy's buffoonery sprinkled over the top of a pop-culture lasagna transmogrified into a film script. You're just hoping it moves fast, and your kids don't shit their pants or start eating their goddamned 3D glasses before it ends. 

After the first 10 minutes, the realization sets in: DreamWorks is actually letting this Shrek contain an honest-to-god story! It's not just a loose framework for rejected Morning Zoo punchlines to be splattered onscreen like Jackson Pollock possessed by Seth MacFarlane! Even more unexpectedly, the story is a strange mélange of It's a Wonderful Life, Braveheart, and season six of Lost, and it explores the very kid-friendly themes of mid-life crisis, marriage troubles, and bad parenting.

The basics: Shrek (Myers) is sick of his domestic life. Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) signs Shrek to a contract that sends him to an alternate universe where he was never born. Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is now a warrior princess leading a squad of guerrilla ogres against Rumpel's army of witches. Shrek has to prove himself to Fiona and help free his land of Far Far Away in 24 hours, or else he'll cease to exist.

Shrek Forever After is a mawkish, sporadically funny dramedy about one ogre's attempt to correct his selfish mistakes, with composer Harry Gregson-Williams spamming the "Sad Rocky" theme for effect and Eddie Murphy doing shitty karaoke whenever an adult-contemporary radio station isn't taking over the scoring duties.

There are, however, minor victories scattered throughout the runtime: a disastrous birthday party scene, a choice Beastie Boys sample, a gingerbread gladiator arena, a fat-as-hell Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), decent 3D, and the promise, on every poster, that this particular film series—and it is a franchise, in the purest, most mercenary sense of the word—is finally exhausted.