Ogre the top
Shrek 2 is a rare sequel that lives up to the original
Shrek 2 is a great film, animated or otherwise. It’s a rare smart film that should appeal to virtually everyone. With the summer movie season officially here, Shrek 2 will deservedly become one of summer’s biggest hits, with just enough physical comedy and fart jokes for the kids and witty asides for the parents that never occur at the child’s viewing expense.
The sequel carries over the first films’s message that true beauty lies beneath the skin—a positive message that school-aged children can’t encounter enough considering our media’s hyper-fascination with physical beauty and its synthetic manipulation (see TV’s The Swan, etc.).
Shrek 2 begins with Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and Shrek (Mike Meyers) reveling in their newfound wedded bliss. Times are so good, and flatulence so plentiful, that even a Counting Crows song playing over their honeymoon hijinx can’t dampen their soaring spirits. Upon returning home they find a letter from Fiona’s parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews), the king and queen of Far, Far Away, inviting them for a ball to celebrate the marriage.
The problem? The parents are completely unaware that their daughter, an ogre herself, has married an ogre.
When the newlyweds arrive in Far, Far Away, which resembles a medieval Hollywood and Beverly Hills, things occur as expected. The king and queen are not thrilled with their new son-in-law. The king is so distressed that he enlists the aid of the mob-boss-like fairy godmother (Jennifer Saunders) to get rid of Shrek and arrange matters so that her son Prince Charming (an amusingly preening Rupert Everett) will become Princess Fiona’s husband.
The king and fairy godmother resort to hiring Puss in Boots (a scene-stealing Antonio Banderas), a hitman (or hitcat, as the case may be), to do away with the good-hearted Shrek. Puss in Boots, like any household cat, is duplicitous in nature and as quick with the claws as he is with summoning a heartwarming cuteness that stops even the most hardened warrior in his tracks.
Other integral characters include Donkey (Eddie Murphy) from the first film, whose part is just large enough to irritate Shrek as a comic foil. And, in a bit of casting genius, Larry King lends his distinctive voice to the character of the Ugly Stepsister tending bar at The Poison Apple.
The film is a never-ending cascade of jokes and sight gags that never grow wearisome and in fact seem to spin exhilaratingly, intoxicatingly out of control as the film’s climax nears. Many of the jokes reference Hawaii Five-O, Ghostbusters, Cops, From Here to Eternity, Footloose and Starbucks and will probably escape children while keeping adults endlessly entertained. Shrek 2 also engages traditional fairy tale characters such as Pinocchio and the Three Little Pigs in very amusing, non-traditional ways.
The animated films that I grew up on were never blessed with this sort of hipster soundtrack: Nick Cave’s and Tom Waits’ compositions fittingly color scenes inside the dark pub The Poison Apple. Emo saints Dashboard Confessional, and Counting Crows contributes. Pete Yorn tosses off a harmless cover of The Buzzcocks’ classic "Ever Fallen in Love," and Butterfly Boucher emerges unscathed in tackling David Bowie’s "Changes." One might wonder why the original versions were not included here. Did the producers think the Buzzcocks and David Bowie performances too abrasive? An infinitesimal complaint about a film that enthusiastically fires on all cylinders.