Shrek 2 Movie Review

When Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) pulls off his helmet to reveal a hairnet in the first minute of Shrek 2, it's clear the sequel intends to match the wit and style of its predecessor. Fortunately it succeeds, finding new targets for its fairy-tale bashing humor. The result is the kind of summer escapism you don't need to lower your expectations to enjoy.

The sequel begins where part one left off. Ogre Shrek (Mike Myers) and his now equally ogre-rific wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz) embark on a hilarious honeymoon montage, complete with mermaid-tossing. They return to find Donkey (Eddie Murphy) still fulfilling his role as "annoying talking animal." Before they can kick him out, however, they receive an invitation from Fiona's parents, King Harold (John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews), who want to meet their daughter's new husband. Unfortunately, they didn't see the first film, and have no idea that their daughter is now permanently of the green persuasion, as is their new son-in-law.

Shrek reluctantly agrees to accept the invite and his worst fears are confirmed when Fiona's father rejects him and his own stubborn behavior alienates Fiona. Enter The Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) who appears to want to help but is only interested in fixing up Fiona with Prince Charming.

The usual hijinks ensue, culminating in another race against time to prevent Fiona from ending up with the wrong guy, but along the way the filmmakers find fresh fodder for their wry parody. Where the first film poked fun primarily at Disney, the second broadens the scope to include all of Hollywood. Far Far Away, the land in which Fiona's parents reside, stands in for Beverly Hills, complete with fenced in mansions for Snow White and Cinderella and high priced shopping at "Versarchery." The Fairy Godmother comes off as a high-priced agent, promising Fiona the life of her dreams via potions, spells, and makeovers. L.A., in fact, seems a richer target for the franchise's satire given the emphasis both stories place on the dangers of looking only skin deep.

The sequel also provides colorful new supporting characters. Antonio Banderas nearly steals the show as Puss-in-Boots, a cute but ferocious kitten who joins forces with Shrek after initially being hired to kill him. His first attack is interrupted by the funniest hairball in history. Larry King gets some laughs as The Ugly Stepsister, an information peddler in the criminal underworld of fairy-tale villains. And Everett hits all the right notes as the pompous and pouty Charming.

One of the strengths of the original was the unpredictable soundtrack, which gave mainstream artists like Smash Mouth and hip icons like Leonard Cohen equal priority. That tradition continues here with Ricky Martin sharing score space with Tom Waits and Nick Cave. The songs may be a little overdone this time, but by and large they add to the fun.

The most satisfying aspect of this sequel is the fun the writers have with the conventions of the fairy-tale genre. We see a factory that makes spells and the bar that all the fairy-tale villains frequent. As with the first movie, a great deal of imagination seems to have gone into this effort. The fact that the filmmakers didn't rest on the laurels of the original (even if they did rehash the basic plot) makes this film stand on its own as, if not a necessary sequel, certainly a welcome one.

Stick around for the credits on the Shrek 2 DVD -- a short coda added for the video release follows the feature. Also you'll find a rather silly American Idol satire, plus loads of behind-the-scenes footage, from technical tests to cast interviews and commentary tracks. Recommended!

It's what's for dinner.


Comments

Shrek 2 Rating

" Good "

Rating: PG, 2004

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