The question that Shrek 2 has to solve is where can you go after happily ever after? The badguy has been slain, the dragon conquered, and the princess wooed. What could possibly go wrong? Well, with characters like a cross-dresser, a gender-bender with a pork fetish and a repentant assassin, Shrek 2 seems more like real-life than a fairy tale. Okay, so the cross-dresser is Pinocchio in a thong, the gender-bender the Big Bad Wolf, and the killer Puss In Boots, but at least their problems are realistic. And unlike fairy-tales, in the real world, there's always something that goes wrong after happily ever after.
So, the filmmakers of the original movie decided that what more perfect way was there to screw up a fine marriage between Shrek (Mike Myers) and his now permanently green bride Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), than to have her parents meet Fiona's new beau.
Along with faithful sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy), the newlyweds set out to meet Fiona's parents in the kingdom of Far Far Away, essentially Beverly Hills re-imaged with famous fairy-tale characters as celebrities with stretch-limo sized carriages. Sleeping Beauty becomes a Julia-Roberts-sized star with narcolepsy.
Fiona's father (John Cleese) is less than happy with his daughter's choice of husbands, and tries to have his crude son-in-law bumped off with the help of a pint sized, Zorro-with-hairballs assassin Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas).
Andrew Adamson—one of the directors on the first Shrek, now joined by Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon—brilliantly lets the movie play out with the same, dry as a martini, tongue in cheek humor that made the original a delightful children's fable with just enough subtle fun left over for the adults. One of the movie's most clever modern parables is a medieval, prime-time show called Knights, which showcases armored men using pepper grinders as pepper spray and arresting Puss In Boots for carrying a tiny baggy of "catnip" while the tune to "Bad Boys" plays in the background.
The plot of Shrek 2 isn't as coherent as in the original, but that's because the moral lesson at the heart of the story has already been taught. In the first movie, Shrek had to abandon his self-induced solitary exile and realize that, despite his appearance, it was possible for people to care for him. Apparently, Shrek has to learn the old lesson again, starting over from square one, and it's a bit forced when the big green guy digresses in the movie from a confident husband who is pleased with himself back into a self-loathing pessimist who thinks that appearance is all that women look for in a man… or ogre.
The believability of Shrek's lightning quick transformations is helped by Myer's wonderfully mad-cap vocal performance. Rumbling with a thick as molasses Scottish brogue, Myers restrains himself from overplaying the titular green ogre. The job of overacting is best left to Murphy and Banderas, whose lively deliveries offer most of the movie's best moments. Cameron Diaz is somewhat uninspired as Fiona, but the writers never throw her a funny line, and she does the best with what she's given.
While it may not be as good as the original, Shrek 2 sparkles with the same wit and impeccable eye for social and pop cultural satire that made the first an endearing happily ever after to the days when main-stream flicks offered little intelligent humor. But don't forget that this is Hollywood, where happily ever after doesn't spell the end of a movie, but the beginning of a franchise.
Shrek 2 is rated PG for some crude humor, a brief drug reference and some suggestive content.
John Visclosky. John Visclosky is, suffice it to say, "hardly the sharpest intellectual tool in the shed," which is why he has stupidly chosen to here address himself in the third person. He's a mellow sort of guy who enjoys movies and sharing his feelings and innermost … More »