Rated PG - Running Time: 1:33 - Released 5/19/04

When the hysterically funny, digitally animated, fairy-tale-smashing cartoon comedy Shrek appeared in 2001, starring Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz in what would become some of their most famous and well-liked characterizations to date, it helped to cement Dreamworks SKG’s growing reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the genre of cartoon animation. Its pioneering computer techniques, coupled with the superior, adult-oriented scriptwriting for which the company’s cartoons have become known, made it a film which appealed to all ages, offering a level of visual and textual entertainment which easily stood up against any and all of the best comedic films out there, animated or not. It was inevitable, therefore, that sooner or later everybody’s favorite big green ogre would score a second chapter.

Shrek 2 is at least as enjoyable as its predecessor, if not more so, maintaining the high standard for sophisticated humor, sparkling animation, and impeccable casting set by the previous film. This movie, which reunites not only the actors but virtually the same entire creative team from the first, also features a host of hilarious new characters, and will again have little trouble finding an audience among all ages and tastes. Although it is certainly preferable to have seen the first installment, it stands quite well on its own, boasting another vast collection of hilarious in-jokes and movie references which probably cannot all be taken in on one viewing.

The story starts where the first film left off, with Shrek (voice of Myers) and his new wife, Princess Fiona (Diaz), trying to score a little alone time away from their well-meaning but meddlesome friend Donkey (Murphy), when they receive an official invitation from Fiona’s parents, the king and queen of her appropriately named homeland of Far, Far Away, to come and visit so they may meet their new son-in-law. After a long trek in their onion-shaped carriage, the three of them arrive in the glitzy, Hollywood-esque city to a jubilant throng of well wishers and a great fanfare—which is abruptly cut short when the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) get their first look at the large, bulbous green ogre and, more upsettingly, their daughter, who has assumed a similar look thanks to the events which occurred in the final moments of the previous film. Although the queen tries to put on a brave face and accept the obviously happy couple as they are, the king is unimpressed, and he and Shrek begin butting heads pretty much from the start.

While Shrek and Fiona argue over his unwillingness to cozy up to her father, the king enlists the help of a confident but diminutive tabby feline assassin named Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas), who, soon after being bested in combat by Shrek, decides to join forces with him. Meanwhile, a devious plan is hatched by the wicked and enterprising Fairy Godmother (Absolutely Fabulous vet Jennifer Saunders), who wants Fiona to marry her own son, the vain and vapid Prince Charming (Rupert Everett).

This movie is so packed full of virtual winks and nods to other movies, especially those famous fairy tale flicks of its rival company, Disney, it is a rewarding experience just to play “spot the hilarious movie reference” even if you don’t care about the exploits of Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Puss, et al. But you do care, because the characterizations are so funny and endearing, you can’t help it. Many of the less central fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters who had bit parts in the previous movie, like Pinocchio and the three pigs (all voiced by Cody Cameron), the gingerbread man (co-director Conrad Vernon), and the big bad wolf (Aron Warner), have been given more to do in this segment, and there’s even a cameo vocal appearance by Larry King as the Ugly Stepsister. Visually the film is as stunning as the first, as the colorful beauty of Far Far Away’s landscapes offset by its humorous references to famous business establishments, like “Farbuck’s Coffee,” “Burger Prince,” and “Tower Of London Records.”

Anyone who liked Shrek will love this movie. Anyone who didn’t see Shrek will love this movie. In fact, I’d have to say to anyone who sees this movie and doesn’t like it, well...frankly, you’d have to be an ogre. ****½

Copyright 2004 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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