Dan Lybarger, 21 May 2004
The Oscar-winning ogre is back for
another adventure, and thankfully the folks behind this one haven't
forgotten what made the first Shrek such an entertaining
flick. Shrek 2 has preserved the irreverence of the first
film and has easily bested the technology used to make the initial
During the prologue, you can marvel
at how when Prince Charming (a delightfully self-satisfied Rupert
Everett) rides to the rescue of Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), you
can see the breath of both the prince and his steed as they gallop.
They're only trudging through ice for a quick half-second dissolve,
but it's gratifying that that the folks behind this went to all the
trouble so that their make-believe world was convincingly realized.
The rest of the journey is equally
well-executed, but as viewers of the first film already know, the
Prince is a little late. Fiona is now happily married to the smelly,
crude but somewhat noble Shrek (Mike Myers) and is an ogre herself.
Unfortunately, Fiona's royal
parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) know nothing about her new
spouse and invite the couple to come visit them in their home in Far
Shrek, knowing that locals there
will greet him with the same pitchforks that they do outside his
swamp, isn't eager to go. But love and the insistence of his
annoyingly steadfast friend Donkey (Eddie Murphy) lead him to visit
the distant land that looks strangely like contemporary Los Angeles
(complete with a Tower of London Records).
Needless to say, Shrek's
apprehensions are justified. The opening dinner with Shrek, Fiona,
Donkey and the In-Laws is an unmitigated disaster, and the King even
hires the dreaded hit cat Puss in Boots (voiced with sly bravado by
Antonio Banderas). Hatred of his new son-in-law isn't the only
reason the King is stooping so low. He's made a Faustian pact with
Far Far Away's popular Fairy Godmother (voiced with perfect faux
sweetness by Jennifer Saunders) to give his daughter to her son, who
just happens to be Prince Charming.
Thankfully, nothing progresses as
intended, and there are charmingly wicked gags throughout Shrek 2
that amply reward any viewers willing to pay attention. Watch what
happens when the fairy tale creatures all enter Shrek's home to
house sit (some have a bit of a problem with the door). And
definitely keep an eye out for what happens when a coach parks at a
street corner for half a second.
While many film wags have
attributed the box office clout of the first Shrek to its 3D
computer animation technique in place of traditional 2D hand drawn
animation, it is worth noting that the makers of both Shrek
and the Pixar movies also place strong emphasis on material and
As much eye candy is displayed here
(and there's a lot), if Banderas' turn as Puss in Boots wasn't so
endearing and funny, Shrek 2 would be nothing but a pretty
bore. The characters are dynamic. For example, Puss in Boots is
flamboyant, when not being felled by a hairball, but knows how to
subdue opponents with soft, doe-like eyes when they are obviously
more than a physical match for him.
Fortunately director Andrew Adamson
subordinates all of the cool effects to the story, and writers J.
David Stem, Joe Stillman and David M. Weiss (working from the late
William Steig's character) come up with enough insanity for two or
three films. They also manage the rare feat of being sarcastic
without being smug. When they do pull at our heartstrings, it
doesn't feel phony. They also deserve extra credit for coming up
with what may be the only funny gag involving flatulence in recent
One of the oddly refreshing aspects
of both Shrek films is that unlike a lot of animated films,
viewers are led to sympathize with the less attractive, or nerdier
characters. Animation great Chuck Jones once lamented that too many
of his peers were emphasizing that "pretty is good, and ugly is
bad." Frankly, I'll take the ogre version of Princess Fiona over
Princess Jasmine any day.