In 2001, the talented CGI artists at PDI partnered with Dreamworks to give the folks at Pixar and Disney a run for their money with Shrek. Based on the classic children’s book by William Steig, the irreverent take on classic fairy tale conventions became one of the most successful and popular animated films of all time. A sequel was inevitable.
Shrek 2 goes back to the well for more, with jokes ranging from standard bathroom humor to a spot-on anachronistic parody of Hollywood culture.
Mike Myers is back in the title role as the crusty but warm-hearted ogre at the film’s core, though he’s noticeably toned down his signature Scottish brogue this time around. Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz also return as perpetually annoying sidekick Donkey and love interest Fiona, respectively. New additions include John Cleese and Julie Andrews as Fiona’s parents, Rupert Everett as Prince Charming, and Absolutely Fabulous‘s Jennifer Saunders as the Fairy Godmother.
The real star of the show, however, is Puss… in Boots. Voiced by Antonio Banderas, the deadly feline assassin gives the franchise a sharp kick in the pants. Banderas almost single-handedly saves the sequel from being little more than a rehash of the first movie.
The paper-thin plot follows a post-honeymoon Shrek and Fiona as they journey to the Southern California-inspired kingdom of Far Far Away to meet the parents. Needless to say, the King and Queen are more than a little surprised at their Princess’s new husband and new appearance. Fiona was supposed to have wed Prince Charming and broken the curse that turns her into an ogre at night. Instead, by marrying Shrek, she has resigned herself forever to that state. As expected, a plot is hatched to break up the happy couple, Shrek and Fiona both do a bit of soul searching, and so on to a not entirely unexpected conclusion.
Along the way, the film delivers plenty of laughs. While some gags fall flat or just seem plain tired, a surprising many are right on the mark, particularly a parody of Cops (Knights) that’s one of the funniest scenes ever filmed (or rendered). A handful of the fairy tale characters from the first film also make a welcome return appearance; the Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio, and the Three Blind Mice provide plenty of laughs in an escape sequence straight out of Mission: Impossible.
Adding to the light, peppy feel of the film is a stellar soundtrack that mixes new tracks like “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows with a flurry of classic rock remakes including “Holding Out For A Hero,” “Changes,” and “Funkytown.” Jennifer Saunders’ “Fairy Godmother Song” and Murphy and Banderas’ inimitable version of “Livin’ La Vida Loca” are both highlights.
Though I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Shrek, I couldn’t help but like the sequel. While the requisite moments of sentimentality touch on the saccharine, the movie is clever and funny enough that it hits far more often than it misses. Shrek 2 is a fun, entertaining film that even an ogre would enjoy.