When last we saw the intrepid threesome of Fiona (Cameron Diaz), Shrek (Mike Myers) and Donkey (Eddie Murphy), a roaring wedding reception was underway celebrating the lead couple’s nuptials. As Shrek 2 opens, we are treated to Dreamwork’s pop culture re-imagining of the traditional fairy tale world. In particular, we get to see Shrek and Fiona on their honeymoon.
They return to their home in the swamp only to have their bliss interrupted by an invitation from Fiona’s parents, the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) of the land called Far, Far Away. Shrek does not want to go and meet his human in-laws because he has had all too much experience with how humans treat Ogres (re: torches, death etc). But despite his authoritative refusal, they, along with the ever nosy Donkey, are soon on their way to see the new Mom and Dad.
Donkey acts like a petulant child for the 700-mile coach ride to Far, Far Away and he is once again the funniest presence on screen. Why Eddie Murphy’s career was so haphazard and mostly terrible after Coming to America is beyond me. The Klump movies were cheap funny but they were very derivative of the barbershop scenes in Coming to America. Maybe he did good, funny work again in the Shrek franchise because he was no longer a big star and had to hustle again and actually listen to other people? But he steals every scene, just like he did in the first Shrek.
Fiona isn’t as interesting as she was in the first movie. Before, she was this naive Princess who wanted the fairy tale world and wasn’t sure what she thought of this big green guy. Now, she loves the green guy and is happy with her new life. That sense of exploration is gone from her character. Diaz does a fine job of voicing her but it’s nothing spectacular. Shrek, too, is softer and more gentle then he was in the first flick. Love, like it does to many artists, has a tendency to smooth out the rough edges in a personality even though it was those edges that attracted you to that personality in the first place.
The biggest newcomer in this film is Puss in Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas. He accomplishes the heretofore impossible task of stealing a scene from Donkey. He’s not as funny overall but his “kitty cat eyes” scenes and the hairball scene are the funniest individual bits in the entire movie.
When the trio gets to Far, Far Away, we are treated to a fantastic swipe at Hollywood. “We’re definitely not in the swamp anymore,” opines Shrek as they make their way through a medieval Rodeo drive with such stores as Old Knavery and Gap Queen. The land even comes with its own Far, Far Away sign on the hillside that looks just like a similar sign in southern California. They make it past huge mansions occupied by fairy tale celebrities such as Cinderella and Snow White. It’s a rich satire of the opulent Beverly Hills mythos.
When they meet the parents, there is obvious conflict. Their daughter was once a human being. Now she’s an Ogre married to another Ogre. Daddy isn’t happy. Shrek isn’t happy with Daddy. Fiona isn’t happy because her husband and her Dad aren’t happy. Everybody’s pissed.
Shrek’s misery rises to a new level when he reads Fiona’s childhood diary. Every page is an homage to Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), an airhead pretty boy who is the male equivalent of Paris Hilton. Shrek wants more than anything to make her happy and he is willing to change everything to do it.
The only possible knock on this movie is that its message of beauty being only skin deep is the same exact message as in the original Shrek. It’s a great message to trumpet in today’s superficial society but I would have enjoyed it even more if they had chosen a new lesson. It’s not like there aren’t many other strong moral tenets out there.
As Shrek, Donkey and Puss in Boots go on a quest to make Fiona happy again, we are treated to a copious pop culture atmosphere which includes references to other movies (Flashdance, Mission Impossible, Spiderman and Titanic), allusions to Diaz’ then relationship with Justin Timberlake, TV Shows (the COPS homage may be the funniest scene in the movie), an actual bottle of Love Potion # IX (or 9 – ha ha), a Stretch Carriage Limousine and an energetic modern rock soundtrack.
Also, listen for Larry King’s voice in an inspired casting decision.
The animation is superb. I didn’t want to turn away from the screen to jot down notes for this review for fear of missing another ridiculous rendering by the geniuses at Dreamworks Animation. Every scene is gorgeous. The dialogue is witty. The voices are funny. The look is sharp. The story is tight. It’s entertaining as hell from Fade In to Fade Out.
Shrek 2 will leave you happily ever after.
#shrek2 #shrek #eddiemurphy #cameronDiaz #larryking #antoniobanderas #pussinboots #fairytales #hollywood #mikemyers #movieReview #movies #movie