Shrek 2 is chock full of memorable scenes — the “Accidentally in Love” honeymoon montage; Fairy Godmother belting out “I Need a Hero” while Mongo the Gingerbread man raids the castle; Shrek, Donkey, and Puss breaking into her factory while pretending to be union representatives — but there is one that’s seared into my memory for all the weird implications it unleashes across the rest of the Shrek franchise.
After a tense dinner and subsequent argument with Fiona, Shrek lies awake in Fiona’s childhood bedroom, unable to sleep. As he looks up, he notices a poster above Fiona’s canopy bed of a young man named Sir Justin. There’s no doubt about it: it’s absolutely Justin Timberlake’s Shreksona.
I dwell on this scene for many reasons. For one, it’s a cute little detail that Fiona’s room is preserved exactly as it was when she left it all those years ago. It’s also yet another little “Haha, Far Far Away is just like Hollywood” nod. And finally, as I would only realize this year while digging into the 20th anniversary of the movie, Cameron Diaz was dating Justin Timberlake when the movie was made. Meta.
Here’s where this choice gets funky: Justin Timberlake voices a character in Shrek the Third. Not just a one-note cameo, either. Justin Timberlake voices King Arthur, Fiona’s distant cousin and next in line for the throne of Far Far Away after Shrek (who understandably just wants to return to his swamp). Instead of being a great hero of legend, Arthur is a nerdy high school student who eventually summons the courage to take over the throne. Shrek the Third isn’t a great movie, but Artie was my favorite part because I was an impressionable tween with a weakness for nerdy boys with floppy blondish hair. Putting a celebrity cameo in one movie only to have that spoofed famous person actually voice a main character in a subsequent movie feels extremely Shrek.
But the sad thing is that after Shrek the Third … Artie is never mentioned ever again. Shrek Forever After is basically an AU that explores what would’ve happened if Shrek never rescued Fiona. It’s honestly unhinged and dumb, but I have beef with it because it completely erases Artie from the narrative. Sure, it takes place in a reality where Artie doesn’t become a big player, but there isn’t even a passing mention to Arthur in the scenes leading up to that. The biggest offense, however, comes in the movie’s end credits.
As the credits on Shrek Forever After roll, scenes from the previous Shrek films play, showcasing old characters and memorable moments to basically summarize each movie. All the faves appear — except for Arthur. He is completely absent from the credits, despite being the whole point of the third movie! What gives?!
Now some celeb gossipers theorized that Diaz and Timberlake’s breakup contributed to his absence from the fourth film, but director Mike Mitchell gave a flimsy excuse of the franchise being too crowded with characters. Sure, I buy that he can’t be included in the frankly already overstuffed narrative of Shrek Forever After, but not even in the credit scenes?! Not even with a split second of old footage?
Alas, while Justin Timberlake in Shrek speaks to the franchise’ penchant for pop culture references and popular actors coming together, he is not even an afterthought in the last movie. To that I say, Justice for Justin Timberlake in Shrek. Long live Arthur, the once and future king.