Shrek 5 needs to learn a valuable lesson from Shrek 2

Jasmine Valentine
The cast of Shrek 2

I’m holding out for a hero… but nobody needs a hero more than the Shrek franchise. With Shrek 5 officially on the way, however, the swamp’s past may hold the secret to the franchise’s future success. 

I won’t judge you for thinking Shrek 2 is incredible because I am in complete agreement – unironically, it’s one of the best sequels, nay best animated movies, of all time. I was nine when it came out, and the delirious excitement of seeing it on the big screen resulted in scenes being burned into my brain forever.

Twenty years later and the hype among thirty-something millennials is very much the same. Not just because there’s a significant anniversary this year (and nostalgia is one hell of a drug) but also because Shrek 2 is a genuinely magical movie.

Many years and two sub-par sequels later, this also explains why the official announcement of Shrek 5 – with its original cast – has many of us feeling like the swamp can finally be vindicated. That’s not to say Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After were intolerable, more that they were the cinematic equivalent of the last sweet in the box being a Bounty. 

However, for Shrek 5 to succeed, it needs to hone in on what made Shrek 2 such a powerhouse. Not to toot our own horn, but my generation will decide its success, not the 5-year-old kids who would rather see a Minions ride at Universal Studios (RIP, Shrek 4-D). 

Shrek 5 needs to appeal to thirtysomethings, not kids 

It might seem like a maverick move to make an animated movie geared toward adults, but it’s actually a smart strategy. Let’s look at the facts – sequels 3 and 4 tanked globally, and the franchise is in decline save for a fairly ghastly tourist trap on the London South Bank.

So, where did it all go wrong? In short, Shreks 3 and 4 strayed away from the franchise fundamentals. Instead of effective and enriching storytelling in a simple format that’s peppered with really smart humor, the sequels got stupid, bringing in storylines like the Rumpelstiltskin curse that absolutely nobody cares about unless you’re a medieval jester.

Our younger Gen Z moviegoers can now only connect with Shrek and the karaoke swamp dance party through an ironic lens. The green giant is more or less a laughing stock on the internet, made to be the joke rather than tell them. Kids didn’t have the chance to catch them at the movies in real time, and we can’t blame them for that. But this is where “knowing your history” needs to come in.  

On top of this, Puss in Boots has taken over, unexpectedly smashing it out of the park with the genuinely very good Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. A simple and exciting quest was coupled with an astonishing new approach to animation… and who can land the adult-friendly jokes better than Antonio Banderas?

With all this in mind, it’s not too surprising that the only people who remember top-notch Shrek are the ones who now have serious jobs and responsibilities.

As a franchise, Shrek is out of step with the detached youngsters, who would rather see a ton of yellow idiots speak a made-up language and try to steal the moon. If Universal is a studio that has something for everyone, let the kids have their fun, and let us have ours. 

Shrek 2 was the golden age, but it can happen again 

For that to happen successfully, Shrek 5 needs to streamline, refocus, and maybe call in Jennifer Saunders for another banger musical number. Shrek 2 didn’t just add to the original movie but elevated it, all the while touching on a problem so many of us have to grapple with: why are in-laws so annoying?

Where so many sequels have failed by trying to reposition themselves for a new generation who doesn’t quite get a franchise anyway (often riddled with painful internet jokes it doesn’t understand), Shrek 5 can be a cartoon of yesteryear, with revamped visuals, and work out just fine. 

This means more Donkey jokes, more Glee-style music covers, and less being bothered by what people think (would Friar’s Fat Boy be a winning fast food name now?) It means being brave enough to reclaim the word musical, even if the world has convinced us that we don’t want that. Of course, the exception is when 00s hits are being performed by cartoon fairytales. 

If Shreks 3 and 4 were stupid, Shrek 2 was silly – and in a world of cost-of-living crises, astronomical rent, and old people shouting at us for eating avocado toast, being silly for 90 minutes might fix more than we’d think. Shrek 5 is already onto a winner by securing the original cast after 14 years, but if it wants to win at the box office, it’s got to commit to its past for a happy ever after. 

Find more new movies and new movies streaming alongside the latest updates on other animated hits, such as Moana 2, Frozen 3, and Toy Story 5.