Sunday, May 23, 2004

Shrek 2
Review by Sombrero Grande

Shrek 2 is an example of perhaps the rarest of sequels; it’s so in tune with what worked the first time around that the film doesn’t feel like a rehashed dosage of “more of the same” but instead feels like an integrated part of what preceded it. A sequel’s meant to be the continuation of the original story and few execute that premise more flawlessly than Shrek 2.

While Shrek was originally produced as a stand-alone send-up of all the conventions of fairytales, it neglected to trash what is perhaps the genre’s most prized staple: “And they lived happily ever after.” Shrek 2 fixes that by turning the concept of “happily ever after” happily on its ear, along with even more even more fairytale darlings along the way.

Newlyweds Shrek and Princess Fiona find themselves invited to a royal celebration in the kingdom of Far Far Away, thrown by Fiona’s parents, King Harold and Queen Lillian. While Lord Farquaad’s kingdom of Duloc in Shrek was a send-up of Disney theme parks, Far Far Away pokes fun at Hollywood, from the Beverly Hills-like streets where all the “big names” in fairy tales live to designer stores and a Farbucks Coffeehouse on every corner. The King and Queen want to welcome their new son-in-law to the family, but apparently the news they received of Fiona’s marriage didn’t include one vital piece of information: WHOM she was married to. Instead of an ogre they were expecting Prince Charming, literally. It seems King Harold had made plans with The Fairy Godmother, a specialist in magic, potions and making princesses’ lives the way they should be, for Fiona to marry The Fairy Godmother’s son, Prince Charming. No other man could marry Fiona for she would be locked in the tallest tower of a darkened, dragon-guarded castle where only Charming’s bravery and heroics could penetrate…or so went the best laid plans of Kings and Fairies. Thanks to Lord Farquaad’s meddling in Shrek, a big, green, smelly wrench was thrown into the gears. Now, while Shrek and Fiona are deeply in love, everyone else is quite upset. “Happily ever after,” my foot.

See how the story of Shrek 2 ties so neatly together with the story of the original? There’s a flow there that makes the two parts feel whole, something that you’d like but rarely see in a sequel that wasn’t originally planned alongside its predecessor. But it’s not just the story that blends so well with the original film; the same clever writing and humor from Shrek again shines. There’s plenty more fairytale fodder up for the skewering this time around and, again, the most pointed jabs are directed at beloved Disney characters, from a trampish Little Mermaid to the revelation that Pinocchio likes wearing women’s undergarments. Even with a bevy of new characters like Puss in Boots and The Fairy Godmother joining the mix, there’s also quite a bit of non-fairytale spoofing going on. Watch for clever parodies of The Fellowship of the Ring, Spider-Man, From Here to Eternity, Mission: Impossible, the TV show COPS, E.T. and numerous others.

The voice talent was nicely invisible in the first movie (you don’t want to sit there and think “Mike Myers” every time Shrek opens his mouth), and the same is again true for Shrek 2, from John Cleese as King Harold to Larry King--very surprisingly invisible--as the Ugly Stepsister.

While the animation looks even more lush and detailed than in the original, we all know that it’s the writing that drives the visuals, not the other way around, and thankfully how Shrek 2 plays is even better than how it looks. If Shrek 3 is just as fun, clever and funny as Shrek 2 is, you can definitely count me in for another installment.


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