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Shrek The Third

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The addition of cute babies is usually a sure sign of a franchise running out of steam. And so even though the young'un here exhibit such off-putting quirks as belching fire and projectile-vomiting, they're still adorable enough to make the leap to merchandising. And selling toys and Happy Meals seems to be the only point of Chris Miller and Raman Hui's film, the third iteration of the animated fairy-tale spoof. There's a handful of scattered and poorly developed plots: Shrek's gonna be a dad; Fiona's been kidnapped; Prince Chamring is up to no good; and who, oh, who will be the new king? (The death of the old king, voiced by John Cleese, is just about the only funny moment.) Shrek III is a craven retread, stomping over its threadbare jokes with a franticness that also signals a desperate lack of wit. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz, among many others, return to provide their voices; the new celeb on the mic is Justin Timberlake, who doesn't bring any sexy back to his role as the nerdy teen, Arthur. (AH) [capsule review]

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