Shrek 2 Review
Sequels, generally, disappoint. There are honourable exceptions (Godfather 2, Toy Story 2, The Empire Strikes Back) to this rule, but for the most part, sequels are a blatant attempt by the studios to cash in on the success of the first film, and often feel like warmed up leftovers rather than a new and tasty dish. Thankfully, Shrek 2 is a smorgasbord of delights, with something for all ages.
Shrek 2 opens where the first film left off, with Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) on their honeymoon. A montage shows them rolling, From Here to Eternity style, on the beach, making their own Jacuzzi mud bath, and picnicking. They are, as all honeymooners should be, blissfully happy. The honeymoon ends, and they return to the swamp, where Shrek’s amiable sidekick, Donkey (Eddie Murphy), is housesitting, having fought with Dragon. Shrek is not particularly thrilled to see Donkey, as he wants to be alone with Fiona. Donkey obliges, eventually, but interrupts one last time to ask what Shrek wants done with the dozen or so heralds waiting outside.
The heralds have come from Far Far Away, Fiona’s home, to extend an invitation to Fiona and her new husband, to a ball in their honour. Shrek is plainly unenthusiastic, but Fiona gets her way in the end, and the happy couple, plus Donkey, set off. The journey takes a very long time, especially with Donkey incessantly wanting to know if they’re there yet, trying Shrek’s patience. But finally they arrive in a kingdom that bears more than a passing resemblance to Los Angeles, complete with stretch carriages, Saxon 5th Avenue, and fairy star maps for sale. The entire city rushes to the palace to excitedly welcome Fiona, and her handsome husband, home. So when the two ogres step out of the carriage, the horrified reaction is not lost on Shrek. Fiona begs him to make the best of it and reminds him that these are her parents.
But the visit, which begins badly, gets worse. It turns out that Fiona was destined to marry Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), the vacuous himbo son of the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders), who is not happy that this green interloper will inherit the kingdom. Shrek, on the other hand, just wants to go home, quarrels with the King (John Cleese), upsets Fiona, and generally feels unwelcome and unhappy. When the King (who has a secret of his own) hires an assassin to take care of Shrek, freeing Fiona to marry Charming, Shrek must decide how much he is prepared to sacrifice for his true love.
The new film has all the same clever, topical humour of the original, plus a touching storyline. Though you know that things will end well for Shrek and Fiona, the final race against time is genuinely tense and exciting, and you want these two – ogres – to end up together. It plays with the fairytale convention of ‘happily ever after’ and looks at issues from accepting who you are to the need for compromise within relationships. But these themes are touched on delicately, never in a preachy or pompous manner.
The deft script introduces a number of new characters economically and to good effect. This is much more of an ensemble piece than the first film, which focussed on the burgeoning relationship between Shrek and Fiona, with Donkey for comic value. Now we have Fiona’s parents, Prince Charming, the Fairy Godmother, and Shrek’s assassin, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), a cross between Zorro and a Hallmark card kitten.
Saunders in particular has great fun playing her character as a much nastier version of Eddie in Ab Fab. Eddie Murphy too is on form, especially in his transformation scene, though it’s a shame we see slightly less of Fiona. The humour plays on several levels, with tonnes of film references and dirty, slightly vicious, tongue in cheek visual gags of the blink and you’ll miss it variety.
With Shrek 3 looking more and more likely after the US Box Office results, I just hope it can live up to its predecessors.
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