Wow, its been awhile, huh? With all the other shit that Ive been publishing lately, I havent sat down to write an actual film review since…well, about two weeks ago. And that was for a film thats now out on DVD. Not only have I been busy writing (as those of you whove been receiving chapters of my forthcoming book, FASHIONABLY LOST will surely understand), but Ive hardly had a chance to get to a theater.
Alot of that has to do with whats in theaters. Ive seen so much bullshit in movie theaters over the last year or two, Ive gotten to the point where its gotta be something pretty special to get me to make the journey to my local Googleplex. And take into consideration that I rarely pay for films anymore. Today, I was inspired to go see SHREK 2. I loved the first film, liked what I saw of the trailers for this sequel, and it was a bad weather sorta day here in Dallas, so why not?
The question, of course, is: Did the sequel live up to the original?
Yes, yes, and more yes. Ive only seen SHREK 2 once, but Im already convinced that its even better than the original. There are more characters, more pop culture references (I saw allusions to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, ALIEN, SPIDERMAN, and about a dozen others I cant recall on the spot), more locations, more everything. I guess the best place to start reviewing this one is the “more characters” part.
Theres Shrek, of course, as well as Donkey and Princess Fionna. Theyre all voiced by the actors and actresses that did the voices in the first flick, and theyre still just as entertaining as they were the first time around. But, ah, didnt I say “more characters”? That I did. The big star of this one, whom I predict will become the real “star” of this series if he shows up in the just-announced SHREK 3 and 4, was Puss in Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas.
Puss is hired by a Fairy Godmother with revenge on her mind. See, her son Prince Charming didnt get to make Fionna his wife, even though that had been promised to him by Fionnas father. When the Godmother finds out that Shrek is the one she ended up with, shes furious. She sets in motion a series of obstacles that will tear Shrek and Fionna apart, chief among them the hiring of Puss in Boots to assassinate Shrek. Puss shows up in a floppy, Three Musketeers-style hat with a similar sword. His real secret weapon is the “cute face” he makes whenever hes threatened a gag that gets used throughout the flick. Banderas brings an enormous amount of personality and charm to the character, making every scene that hes a part of that much better.
The Fairy Godmother is played by Jennifer Saunders, who some of you may recognize from the British TV series ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS (which I usually refer to as ABSOLUTELY UNFUNNY AND UNDESERVING OF THE PRAISE BESTOWED UPON IT). I loved how dark they made this character, and I particularly enjoyed the running jokes about her diet and the visit we make to her enchanted potion factory.
Which brings me to another point the locations in SHREK 2 are lightyears beyond the locations from the first film. They burst with the sort of detail and background jokes that are atypical of the animated features from Pixar. Pay close attention during the visit to the enchanted potion factory, in particular the workers therein. Theres a great sight gag when Shrek appropriates the uniform of one of these workers.
Another scene that was bursting with detail involved the arrival of a slew of fairy tale celebrities to the Kings castle. There are huge crowds, a Joan Rivers-look alike (and I wonder if that wasnt actually her doing the voice of the character; if not, it was a spot-on imitation), and all kinds of carriages showing up to drop off the celebs. I particularly liked the carriage carrying Sleeping Beauty, and how she evacuated the carriage face-first into the floor, dead asleep. Great touch.
In addition to these new, hilarious characters and all this exquisite detail, a bunch of the minor characters from the original SHREK show up to help their buddy get what needs to be done, done. The Gingerbread Man, who so many people loved in the first film, is back (with little icing stitches where his torn off legs have been reattached) with a meatier role, as well as a surprise transformation late in the film that needs to be seen to be appreciated in full (think: GHOSTBUSTERS). Pinocchio shows up again, too, with some embarrassing secrets of his own. The Three Blind Mice also return, as do the Three Little Pigs. All are used to serve a purpose within the story; in other words, they arent brought back just to take up time and give us some easy laughs.
In fact, nothing about SHREK 2 seems like “easy laughs”. What I mean is, all the jokes (and they come at the rate of about 3 per minute) in SHREK 2 are genuine, non-filler humor. The writing is always clever, never dumbing itself down even with the idea that this should be a kids flick. There are many, many sequences here that will please children, but theyll please adults even more. Look for a COPS parody in the third act, and keep your eyes peeled for the contraband that the cops (here playing their role on a show called KNIGHTS) take off of Puss in Boots (“Thats not mine!”).
I laughed through the vast majority of SHREK 2. The jokes come faster and funnier. The characters are more developed, and the ones that have already been established are given more to do. The story Shrek and Fionna travel to the kingdom of Far, Far Away to meet Fionnas parents is, on the surface, pretty threadbare. But the writers have really put alot of effort into mining this plot for all its worth. The film is short, maybe 90 minutes, but not a moment is wasted as far as humor and cool visuals are concerned.
If you liked the first SHREK, you will absolutely adore SHREK 2. I applaud the DREAMWORKS animation division. Theyve now stepped their game up well enough to run alongside the Pixar guys as equals, leaving Disney in the dust. I, for one, am grateful for this new renaissance of animation, since everything that Disneys made since THE LION KING has been a big pile of ass.
Bottom Line: SHREK 2 is an outstanding film, perfect for a date or by yourself on a rainy day. You will laugh at the film from start to finish, and youll have your socks rocked directly from your feet by all the intricate detail, sharp writing, and brilliant song usage going on in the film. This is one of those rare, rare, very rare occasions where the sequel has surpassed its original in terms of…well, everything. See SHREK 2 Doctors Orders.