As with all sequels to successful movies, “Shrek 2”
has the pressure of living up to its original. With this in mind,
“Shrek 2” stays true to its predecessor’s most
beloved traits. Themes of personal depth and twisted fairy tales
dominate, along with parodies of popular culture.
This time, Shrek (Mike Meyers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz)
return from their honeymoon filled with well-known film spoofs such
as the “From Here to Eternity” beach scene. When they
get back to the swamp, Fiona’s parents summon them for a
royal ball celebrating her marriage to Prince Charming (Rupert
Everett). King Harold (John Cleese, “Charlie’s Angels:
Full Throttle”) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews) still
believe Prince Charming has cured her of her ogre curse and are
unaware of both Fiona and Shrek’s green appearances. Shrek
stubbornly refuses to meet Fiona’s parents, marking the first
main break from traditional fairy tales: Marriage doesn’t
necessarily equate to living happily ever after. In true sitcom
fashion, the next shot after Shrek’s refusal shows Fiona,
Shrek and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) leaving in their carriage, with
Fiona clearly having won the argument.
Their journey to Fiona’s hometown of Far Far Away begins
Shrek’s challenge of wooing his wife back. Fiona’s
parents struggle to accept Shrek, who feels alienated by
Fiona’s elite upbringing. Meanwhile, a rather sinister Fairy
Godmother (Jennifer Saunders, “Absolutely Fabulous”)
and the arrogant and whiny Prince Charming try to foil
Shrek’s attempts to be accepted. The characters are
well-cast. Everett is convincing as an over-the-top, snooty prince
and Andrews reprises her role of a royal, kind lady. The most hyped
new character, Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas) is admittedly
lovable. Clearly the creators of “Shrek 2” were poking
fun at the idea of a dashing and brave … household cat.
The plot is simply constructed, with a lot of predictable twists
and turns. At times, these “surprises” are so expected
and overdone that one wonders why they were included in the movie
at all. However, the creators of “Shrek 2” seem to be
conscious that they have not reinvented the wheel and choose to
satirize many aspects of traditional family adventure movies. The
writers mock everything from animal sidekicks to teen idols.
Although Disney movies are definitely still a target, Hollywood
(Far Far Away’s real-life counterpart) is also ridiculed for
its vapid commercialism. Stores like ‘Versarchery’ and
gated mansions for celebrities like Cinderella are clever jabs, as
is an eerily dead-on Joan Rivers (voiced by herself) commentating
on the red carpet for the royal ball.
These parodies of celebrity culture, however, are overdone and
even irrelevant at times, almost as if the writers only threw them
in to show off their own wittiness.
The original “Shrek” movie’s enduring theme
was that character wins out over physical beauty. Similarly,
“Shrek 2” is filled to the brim with critiques of
shallow personalities, false impressions and the double standards
that exist for beautiful people. To offer a glimpse into the
movie’s sarcasm towards Disney-style fairy tales, the Fairy
Godmother is a proponent of plastic surgery. This ongoing theme of
inner qualities versus good looks is needlessly emphasized but
never detracts from the joy and spirit of the film.
The inside jokes and winks at the audience make “Shrek
2” extremely enjoyable to watch. The plot is inevitably
somewhat of a rehash, but the movie is lighthearted enough to have
fun with its shortcomings. The characters’ antics are more
outrageous (The Ugly Stepsister is a transgender bartender voiced
by Larry King), and the spectacle is on a larger scale
(There’s a scene involving fireworks and “Livin’
La Vida Loca”). “Shrek” suffers the same fate as
many sequels –– its predecessor is meatier and
ultimately more successful –– but “Shrek 2”
looks its shortcomings in the eye and never blinks.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.