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THEME PARK REVIEWS

Shrek 4-D breaks the mold

May 22, 2003|Robert Niles | Times Staff Writer

The idea of a theme-park attraction based on the movie "Shrek" seems absurd. After all, "Shrek" earned many of its laughs mocking theme parks, an irony apparently lost on the creators of the new Shrek 4-D attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. But a nod to that irony is the only thing missing from this entertaining romp.

Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow reprise their voice roles from the original film in Shrek 4-D, picking up the story as the ghost of Lord Farquaad pursues Princess Fiona on her honeymoon with Shrek. Theme-park attractions based on movies usually just rehash the film, but Shrek 4-D is both a sequel to the original and a bridge to the "Shrek 2" movie coming next summer. Think of this, then, as "Shrek 1 1/2."

Shrek 4-D combines a 3-D animated movie with special sensory effects (presumably, the fourth D.) Too often in 3-D films, the camera sits dead, leaving the 3-D effect to supply all the action. Four-D films, such as Disney's annoying "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience," often compound the problem by making the audience an acknowledged part of the show, trapping the narrative in the theater and leaving little room for any plot beyond the discovery of what will spit on, crawl over or blow past the audience next.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 24, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
Author's name -- In some editions of Thursday's Calendar Weekend, a review of the new R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse attraction at Sea World misspelled the name of the "Goosebumps" author as Stein.

Director Simon Smith breaks that formula in Shrek 4-D, which instead uses 3-D and in-theater effects to enhance a raucous story. He never allows the 3-D to interrupt the story, save for one early throwaway line by Murphy's Donkey. That keeps the audience's focus on the characters, not the gimmicks.

That, in turn, makes the effects even more surprising when they come. Such as the moving seats. At times, Shrek 4-D plays more like Disney's Star Tours ride than other 4-D shows. That fact is not lost on its creators, who pay homage to Star Tours' Death Star attack with a flying dragon chase through a narrow canyon.

It's not the only reference to Disney in Shrek 4-D, which opens with a frog trying to eat Tinkerbell and ends with the poor little Disney fairy smashed into the theater wall. The original "Shrek" ridiculed the shallowness of Disney's animated fairy tales and the sterility of its theme parks.

Shrek 4-D doesn't directly attack Disney's parks, but it does land its punch by being far more entertaining than anything a Disney park has opened in years.

Don't wait too long in line to experience R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse, the new 4-D movie at SeaWorld San Diego. This ghost story redefines "lifeless production."

R.L. Stine's "Goosebumps" books dominated the spooky kid-lit market before J.K. Rowling dropped Harry Potter on the world and made everyone forget about Stine. "Lighthouse" won't do anything to return Stine to the public's attention.

This shopworn tale drags two vacationing youngsters into -- you guessed it -- a haunted lighthouse, where they find a couple of lonely kid ghosts who've been waiting for playmates to join them in the great beyond. It's just not worth cataloging all the illogic and inconsistencies in the story, except to note that Sam Hamm's script accomplishes what was previously considered impossible for a 4-D movie: It's often boring.

Not even Christopher Lloyd's mugging as the kids' Gilligan-like sidekick can elicit a decent laugh. Director Joe Dante plows through the checklist of 3-D cliches: throw stuff, point stuff, spit stuff. Check, check and check. But Dante can't coax any hint of emotion from his child cast.

Nor do the special sensory effects add any surprises to the show, save to drench the viewers. Hey, you're at SeaWorld. If you want to get wet, go see Shamu.

*

4-D films

Shrek 4-D

What: The 13-minute 3-D animated film features special sensory effects and the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lithgow; directed by Simon Smith.

Where: Universal Studios Hollywood, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City

Times guidelines: Skip it if you are pregnant, get motion sickness easily or have heart, neck or back problems.

Cost: Park admission is $47; children 3-9, $37; 2 and under, free; parking, $8.

Info: (800) UNIVERSAL

R.L. Stine's Haunted Lighthouse

What: The 22-minute 3-D film has special sensory effects and stars Christopher Lloyd, Sara Paxton, Bobby Edner and Lea Thompson; directed by Joe Dante.

Where: SeaWorld San Diego, 500 Sea World Drive, San Diego

Times guidelines: Not for those who will be scared by spooky images. Audience gets wet.

Cost: Park admission is $44.95; children 3-9, $34.95; 2 and under, free; parking, $7.

Info: (619) 226-3901

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