Not content to merely leave a surprise box office smash like Shrek to its own merits, DreamWorks conjured up this worthy sequel depicting the further life and times of the eponymous, sour-tempered, green ogre and his assorted companions. The results are pretty much the same: High-powered voice talents, state-of-the-art computer animation, and sharp, witty writing meld together for a highly enjoyable comedy of little consequence.
The ending of the first film had things wrapped up pretty tightly: Shrek (Mike Myers using his trademark Angry Scot accent) and his paramour Fiona (Cameron Diaz) have wed and are living in matrimonial bliss, occasionally visited by their fairy-tale compatriots and everyone’s favorite garrulous ass—Donkey (Eddie Murphy). The happy couple are settling in to married life when summons from Fiona’s parents, the king and queen of Far Far Away, come bidding them to a proper wedding celebration. Shrek smells disaster, but at the behest of his beast-bride, agrees to go. Accompanied by Donkey, the two set out, and the misadventure begins.
Upon arriving at the kingdom of Far Far Away (a medieval, fairy-tale version of Hollywood), the king (John Cleese) and queen (Julie Andrews) are appalled to see their monstrous daughter and her equally abhorrent spouse. Tempers flare, and Fiona and Shrek quarrel over whether they should leave. It’s apparent, however, that the king has had some dastardly dealings with the boisterous Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders), who wants her foppish twit of a son Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) to marry Fiona instead.
It’s probably irrelevant to flesh out the details of the plot, because if you loved the first Shrek, you already know what you’re getting into. The voicing, particularly Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas as the debonair kitty/assassin Puss in Boots are as funny as ever. The jokes run the gamut of subtle pop culture references, of which there are innumerable, to the tried-and-true fart gag, insuring that the grownups dragged along for the experience will have as much fun as the wee ones. Writers Joe Stillman, J. David Stern, and David Weiss sure know how to mass-market their comedies.
The humor is top-notch, but elements of Shrek 2’s dramatic content will keep it far removed from DreamWorks’ inventive Pixar counterparts, for the homilies in the movie are as old and tired as ever. In Shrek’s quest to find out what really is best for Fiona, he attempts to vanquish their hideous appearances via magic potion. But in the end he learns (sigh) it isn’t what’s outside that counts, it’s yada yada yada. The moral is so damned predictable that nobody will be interested. Not that anyone was going to watch Shrek 2 for its highly conceptual philosophical treatises, but the writers here have only proven that their knack is solely comedic.
Anyway, it always seems rude and ostentatious to thusly critique what is essentially a children’s comedy, so enjoy Shrek 2 for what it is: a rollicking comedic adventure with the hippest, most up-to-date jokes and music around, because, if box-office returns are any indication, more sequels are bound to follow.
Phillip Stephens is a movie critic for Pajiba.
Film | May 12, 2006 | Comments ()