Shrek 2
review by 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 installment.

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 Far Away.

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 character.

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 memory.

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.

Directed by:
Andrew Adamson
Kelly Asbury
Conrad Vernon

Starring:
Mike Myers
Eddie Murphy
Cameron Diaz
Julie Andrews
Antonio Banderas
John Cleese
Rupert Everett
Jennifer Saunders
Aron Warner
Kelly Asbury
Cody Cameron
Conrad Vernon
Christopher Knights
Mark Moseley
Larry King
Guillaume Aretos
Chris Miller
Latifa Ouaou
Erika Thomas
Joan Rivers
Andrew Adamson

Written by:
William Steig
J. David Stem
Joe Stillman
David N. Weiss

Rated:
PG - Parental
Guidance Suggested.
Some material may
not be appropriate for
children.

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