© 2004 Ray Wong
The first summer sequel, SHREK 2, arrives with much fanfare and anticipation. Most of the original cast is back, with some delightful new additions. And the theme of “beauty is what lies beneath” continues.
SHREK 2 gleefully picks up where the first blockbuster left off. Prince Charming is just a tad too late arriving at the castle to rescue Princess Fiona. Meanwhile, after their honeymoon, the Shreks receive an invitation to the kingdom of Far, Far Away, a medieval replica of Rodeo Drive. It turns out that King Harold and Queen Lillian are Fiona’s parents, and they have absolutely no idea that she has married an ogre and become one herself. Harold immediately rejects Shrek, who refuses to be there in the first place. Their squabble upsets Fiona – and that is when her fairy Godmother shows up. It so happens that Harold and Fairy Godmother have planned to bring her son, none other than Prince Charming, and Fiona together, and now the plan has backfired because of Shrek. Their schemes to break up Shrek and Fiona lead us to wild goose chases, mixed identities, complete with a furry assassin, magic, potions, and a show tune or three.
The original SHREK was so chock-full of charm, surprises and satirical jabs at Disney and fairytales in general, one has to wonder how they are going to top that in the sequel. The writers at DreamWorks have done a fantastic job of upping the ante and cranking the mayhem up a few notches. In comparison, the first film was more streamlined and straightforward. In SHREK 2, the dramas, actions and jokes come at such a breakneck pace that one cannot possibly absorb them all in one sitting. The filmmakers must have had so much fun pouring sight gags, pop culture, pop songs, and movie satires in the mix: SPIDER-MAN, MATRIX, LORD OF THE RINGS, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, the Academy Awards, to name a few.
The characters are interesting, colorful, and rich in personalities. We welcome the return of Shrek (Myers), Donkey (the always-hilarious Murphy), Fiona (Diaz), the Gingerbread Man (Vernon), the three blind mice, Pinocchio and the three little pigs (Cody Cameron). The new characters are a blast as well, including King Harold (voiced by a curmudgeon Cleese) and Queen Lillian (the genteel Andrews), Fairy Godmother (a snarky Saunders of the “Absolutely Fabulous” fame), and Prince Charming (the delightfully vain Everett). The standout, however, is Banderas’ Puss N' Boots, in full Zorro mode, who gives Donkey a run for his money.
The animation in SHREK 2 is even richer and more realistic than in the original. The human characters are more expressive and detailed. Some of them look remarkably like the actors who voice them (even Joan Rivers makes a cameo). Sure, there are some gaps in the logic that may be overlooked in the midst of the frantic storytelling. For example, it takes days for Shrek and company to travel to Far, Far Away, but only minutes for Gingerbread Man, et el. to come and save the day. But this is a magical land, and stranger things have happened.
While SHREK 2 may seem to lag somewhat in charm and satirical cleverness, it has done an incredible job of matching, even surpassing, the original in entertainment value. The jokes are fast and furious, and the soundtrack is marvelous to boot. With all that magic going on, DreamWorks must be seeing green.
Stars: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Jennifer Saunders
Directors: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
Writers: J. David Stem, Joe Stillman, David N. Weiss
MPAA Rating: PG for some crude humor and substance references
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 8
Animation – 9
Editing – 8
Production – 9
Total – 8.3 out of 10