A film review by Craig J. Koban
2004, PG-13, 105 mins.
Shrek: Mike Myers / Donkey: Eddie Murphy / Fiona: Cameron Diaz / Puss-in-Boots: Antonio Banderas / King Harold: John Cleese / Queen Lillian: Julie Andrews / Prince Charming: Rupert Everett
Directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon / Written by J. David Stem, Joe Stillman and David N. Weiss, based on the characters by William Steig
SHREK 2 is just an infectious and joyous delight. I say that with a huge degree of surprise.
The original SHREK
was such a winning amalgamation of classis fairy tales, wickedly humorous
characters, and witty satire that it was just so difficult to think that a
sequel could possibly be as fresh and original as its predecessor.
SHREK was a milestone and watershed film in the world of computer
animated features and it firmly helped to establish CG has the predominant way
to make these types of films. Yet,
the original was meant to be a stand-alone, with no thoughts of sequels.
However, the first film was so successful that the suits at DreamWorks
decided to make another (always a bad sign).
However, despite my overall concerns, SHREK 2 is a most definite
winner. It’s as charming and cute
as the original while still maintaining that raw satirical edge that established
the first so well.
SHREK 2 essentially starts where the first
film left off, with SHREK (who is a giant green ogre, just in case you’ve been
living under a rock somewhere!) has married Princess Fiona.
If you have not been forced
to sit through the first one a thousand times with you kids, the first film
detailed their meeting and how Shrek broke the Fiona’s curse.
She started off as a beautiful woman and ended up being a big green ogre
like Shrek himself because, well, because it’s not about being pretty…it's
about being in love with the person. Aaaaaaawww.
Shrek and Fiona are newlyweds enjoying life, as the
hilarious opening montage shows them frolicking in the meadows, kissing on the
beach (in a cute homage to FROM HERE TO ETERNITY) and just enjoying the
ogre lifestyle to its fullest. The
couple eventually receives a summons from the Kingdom of Far Far Away Land as
Fiona’s parents wish to meet her new husband.
Of course, this involves a terribly long journey, made even more
emotionally torturing when Donkey tags along for the ride, who begins the
sequence demonstrating that Donkey is kind of the secret star of the film.
Every scene with him just sings, and is painfully droll to boot.
The arrival at Far Far Away Land is the film’s comic
high point. The Land is a cross
between Disneyland and Beverly Hills, and it further illustrates just what a
smart social and class satire these
Shrek films are. They are not just
cute and amusing for kids, but there are real attempts at offering some scathing
humour that only adults could appreciate. When
the happy couple arrives to “meet the parents” Harold and Lillian, the crowd
is so shocked and astonished but the grotesqueness of the couple, that even the
pigeon that is released during the ceremony stops in mid-flight, stares in
astonishment, and slams right into a wall headfirst. I have not laughed so hard in a theatre this year.
Eventually the plot takes a turn for the worse, as the
sinister Fairy Godmother plots with the handsome Prince Charming to win
Fiona’s affection. This leads to
a series of scenes involving potions and spells, some of which can change Shrek
and Fiona into human beings. Meanwhile,
Harold wants to take care of his little ogre problem, goes to the local Far Far
Way Land brew house, and hires a hit man. The hit man, unfortunately, is a
Zorro-esque swordfighting cat with the voice of Antonio Banderas named Puss n’
Boots. The casting of Banderas as
the voice is a stroke of genius,
and he has a terrible amount of fun with the part.
I especially liked the scene where Puss n’ Boots was going into attack
Shrek and is hampered when he has to cough up a hairball.
Fans of the first will not be disappointed in
2, as several characters from the first make appearances here.
Among the most notable are the Gingerbread Man, Three Blind Mice, the
Mirror on the Wall, and of course everyone’s favourite possessed
toy…Pinocchio. Pinocchio probably
occupies the film’s other big laughs, especially in a climatic scene where we
find out, to our horror, what kind of underwear he has on.
The voice work in the film equals the successful work
of SHREK. Mike Myers has
created one of the most endearing comic creations of the last few years in that
big ol’ green guy. And who cares
if he sounds like Fat Bastard from AUSTIN POWERS, Myers brings a real
warmth and tenderness to the character…you really do feel for the guy,
especially when things don’t go his way (and they usually don’t, especially
when you’re seven feet tall and green!) John
Gleese and Julie Andrews also have fun with their roles as Fiona’s parents, as
does Rupert Everrett as Prince Charming, who is just too charming for his own
good, bordering on manic, bipolar obnoxiousness.
But alas, it's Eddie Murphy as Donkey that once again gets all of the best
laughs. Funny, with all of the crap
that Murphy has been delivering us poor viewers over the last few years, who
would have thought that his most endearing, warm, and funny performance would be
playing an ass?
The visuals of SHREK 2 are just mind-blowing
and breathtaking. It’s amazing
the level of detail, color, and realism that CG animators can deliver to us
now. SHREK, in all fairness,
is not supposed to be “realistic” looking, but there is so much energy,
vitality, and warmth in the animation. The
characters FEEL real, and it’s amazing that the animators managed to top the
first in visuals and scope. My
mouth hit the floor many times during the film, and if there is any justice in
the world, these creators deserve some Academy recognition for their work here.
It’s some of the most beautifully realized computer animation I have
SHREK 2 is not so much a sequel as it is an equal, a rare second film that actually, for my money, offers more than the first. The movie is just plain fun, and it highlights and amplifies the very reasons I go to the movies. As a sequel, it works and works famously and does not (amazingly) feel tired and redundant. Rather, it takes the characters that were established in the first film and goes further with them and even more squarely establishes their world. As an animated film, its pitch perfect in being cute enough and entertaining for kids. As for the rest of us, SHREK 2 is sophisticated enough for adults to cherish and enjoy, as only we can understand and relate to its strong satirical edge that populates the film. In a summer movie season where we have been given vampire hunters, natural disasters, and historical epics, I’ll take another film about a big green ogre any day of the week.
SHREK THE THIRD (2007)
And, for what it's worth, CrAiGeR's ranking of the SHREK films:
1. SHREK 2 (2004)
2. SHREK (2001) 1/2
3. SHREK THE THIRD (2007)
4. SHREK FOREVER AFTER (2010) 1/2