DreamWorks, probably after extensive focus group testing throughout the Magic
Kingdom (whoops, sorry, that's another studio), decided on a name for the
follow-up to SHREK, their blockbuster hit of 2001. Rejecting such suggestions
as SHREKER, THE RETURN OF THE JOLLY GREEN OGRE and PRINCESS FI, they decided
that a simpler SHREK 2 would be their ticket to instant riches this year. The
third blockbuster of this summer season, after VAN HELSING and TROY, it's the
first good one, and the first one of the three whose extensive use of CGI --
SHREK 2, of course, is all CGI -- is well worth the money spent.
The real difference in SHREK 2 over the one-hundred-million-dollar-plus-budget
films released most recently before it, however, is the script, which is simply
sublime. The screenplay of SHREK 2 has none of TROY's clunkiness or VAN
HELSING's laughably bad lines. SHREK 2 may not be more than a collection of
funny bits, but, man o' man, are these bits hilarious. The movie features
famous voice talents, but, other than Eddie Murphy, who does his best work in
years in the SHREK series, the actors are never quite as good as the golden
lines that they're given.
In contrast to Pixar's extra family friendliness, DreamWorks likes its movies
to be irreverent and as modern as possible. SHREK 2 may be set in a fairy tale
in a medieval shire, but the music and sensibilities are as timely as teen
interchanges at your local mall.
The plot has Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and his wife Fiona (voiced by Cameron
Diaz) going back to visit her mommy and daddy, King Harold and Queen Lillian
(voiced by John Cleese and Julie Andrews), the royal family of the land known
as Far Far Away. The country's name is prominently displayed in a
HOLLYWOOD-like sign on the hills above its castle. Accompanying Shrek and
Fiona on their journey is their lovable and loquacious donkey (voiced by
Murphy). Constantly demanding to know if they are there yet, the donkey also
complains that there is "no in-flight movie or nothing" in their carriage.
The animators do a lot with the cuteness of little pet-sized animals. Antonio
Banderas is great as Puss-in-Boots, whose secret weapon is his ability to make
extra big eyes that are so adorable that they stop grown men dead in their
tracks. Fiona is given a little white poodle, who is just about the only
non-English speaking character in the story. This little ball of barking fur,
however, is great with visual expressions which can melt hearts.
From Friar's Fat Boy to Farbuck's Coffee, the movie does a splendid job of
poking fun at the fast food industry. It does this better and more honestly
than the current hit documentary, SUPER SIZE ME, which attempts to skewer
McDonalds with a pseudo-realistic experiment.
Other funny episodes include many movie rip-offs -- from Pinocchio doing a
rendition of Tom Cruise in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE to Puss-in-Boots reenacting the
shower dance from FLASHDANCE before belting out "Livin' La Vida Loca." One of
my favorite moments occurs as Joan Rivers (voiced by Joan Rivers, who else?)
covers an event which mimics the red carpet extravaganza of the Oscars.
Watching it at home with his friends, the Gingerbread Man (voiced by Conrad
Vernon) hates it and wants to change the channel to "Wheel of Torture."
So is it as good as the original? Pretty close. And, if forced to choose, I
think I slightly prefer this sequel. SHREK 2 is another don't-miss gem from
SHREK 2 runs 1:33. It is rated PG for "some crude humor, a brief substance
reference and some suggestive content" and would be acceptable for all ages.
Copyright © 2004 Steve Rhodes