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Shrek 2
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2004

Format: Movie
By:   Andrew Adamson/Kelly Asbury (Directors) and J. David Stem/Joe Stillman/David Weiss (Screenwriters)
Genre:   Fantasy/Comedy
Released:   May 19, 2004
Review Date:   June 02, 2004
Audience Rating:   PG
RevSF Rating:   10/10 (What Is This?)

OK, here's my review of Shrek 2: Go see it now.

Why are you still sitting there? Oh, you want more information on why it's so good. Well, I can understand that -- but there are some movies that you really don't want all the good bits spoiled for, and this is one of them, all right?

OK, fine, I'll give you a bit more information. I like the first Shrek pretty well, but I thought that in some places it was a bit crude and that it was a bit short. I really liked how it sent up the usual Fairy Tale conventions, the spoofs, the massive slaps at the House of Mouse, and the performances. I also liked the economy of the story, in that while it was short; you didn't feel short-changed on the story front. Everything that was necessary was there, and told well. The characters were also fleshed out nicely and the "love can be found in unexpected places" theme also appealed to me. (Now only if I could find my Fiona....)

But you know how Toy Story 2 took the bits from the first movie, then expanded and improved on them? It was a marvel how how much better it was than the first Toy Story. Shrek 2 manages the same feat by a factor of four.

Shrek 2 is bigger, better, funnier, deeper and just all around better than the first one in every way imaginable. Better characterization, better music, better animation (which is a given, since each CG movie has better tech than the last), and best of all, better plot.

The main three characters, Shrek (Mike Myers), Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) return, but the Dragon doesn't. She's feeling moody, so Donkey's come to visit his pals until she's feeling better. (That, and with a dragon on your side not much is a real threat to you, so they had to write her out of the plot somehow.) This is all explained in the first five minutes, and then the story kicks off.

Princess Fiona's parents, having received word that their daughter has been rescued and her curse lifted, have sent for her and her Prince to come to Far Far Away for their blessing and a celebration ball. Of course, they have no idea that instead of Prince Charming, Fiona has fallen for Onion-boy.

Once they arrive in Far Far Away, we meet the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) and they are quite shocked to see that their daughter is now big, green and with an ogre. Now, from here the writers could have gone for the standard "parents don't understand at first but through time come to see the good in Shrek" plot, but they don't! Well, I mean that they do, but that's just the start of the main story.

From here a whole mess of plot twists come in, and just about every Fairy Tale character that wasn't in the first movie makes an appearance. We get the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders), Prince Charming himself (Rupert Everett), Puss in Boots (Antonio "I'm so sexy" Bandaras) and a whole host of others in cameos. My two favorites are the Ugly Stepsister (Larry King), and Captain Hook (a piano man in a seedy dive called The Poison Apple, voiced by Tom Waits and Nick Cave).

There are gags and spoofs just crammed in everywhere, especially once our gang gets to Far Far Away, which is a riff on Beverly Hills and Hollywood. I have to see the film again because I'm sure that I missed two gags for every one that I caught.

But like the first Shrek, this one has heart and a story behind the humor, and it's a pretty damn good one. While I think the first Shrek is all about expectations, and how love is not always where you expect it to be, Shrek 2 is about what happens after that. What are you willing to do for the person you love? Are you willing to change for the person you love? Do you want her (or him) to change? Or are you happy with her as she is? If she does change, will she still be the person you fell in love with?

Now, as for the plot, I really, really, really don't want to spoil it for you. It's a fantastic plot, and the writers deserve every penny they got, and lots more.

And that's it. I will tell no more, you just have to see it. It's gold.

I will tell you some of the other good bits that I feel are safe to discuss. As I noted before, it's a given that the animation is better. It's jaw-droppingly good in places. There's a bit where Prince Charming tosses his hair, and it's incredible.

In the performances category, Antonio Banderas as Puss In Boots is stellar. He is funny and it's a great send-up of his persona. The back and forth between him and Donkey is also very funny. Speaking of Donkey, this character continues to be Eddie Murphy's best work in years. Someone please stop him before he makes another family-friendly live action film. Wasn't Daddy Day Care enough?

Diaz and Myers also manage to bring great life to their roles, making Shrek and Fiona real. The casting of Cleese and Andrews was a stroke of brilliance. It really stands out in the scene when the four see each other for the first time and are walking down the red carpet towards each other. The intercuts of the dialog is genius, and pulled off masterfully.

The first Shrek managed to get great use out of songs as a kind of shorthand to really add some depth. They always fit and commented on what was going on in the story, adding more emotion to the scene. Shrek 2 manages the same feat, but with what I think are a better selection of songs.

What, you're still sitting here? Get up and go to the theater. Go on! Get!


Gary "Sneezy the Squid" Mitchel knows the Muffin Man . . . in the Biblical sense.

 
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