(PG) 3 1/2 stars No doubt you’ve seen the TV ads for Shrek 2 featuring quotes from various critics (whose names on the screen are very small and hard to read) that happily announce that the film is “that rare sequel that is as good as the original.”
My take on the computer-animated comedy is positive, but not that positive. Shrek 2 lacks the straightforward storyline of the original. While this edition is exceedingly clever, the humor is more scattered and there aren’t as many laugh-out-loud moments.
Bottom line? If you loved the original, you’ll likely have a great time with this one as well. Just lower your expectations a bit.
Oh, and remember, whenever a TV ad for a movie uses a quote from a critic of note, they’ll make sure you can read his or her name. And don’t be fooled when you see a quote attributed to an unfamiliar person, but followed by the name of one of the big networks. What you’re looking at is merely a quote from a press junket whore working at some network affiliate station, usually as the entertainment or lifestyle reporter.
But I digress.
For those who came in late, the 1991 original film is a raucous comedy about a grumpy ogre (Mike Myers), an eager-to-please donkey named Donkey (Eddie Murphy), a pompous king (John Lithgow) and a feisty princess (Cameron Diaz). For children, it offers imaginative visuals, appealing new characters mixed with a host of familiar faces, loads of action and a barrage of big laughs (including numerous gags related to body functions and yucky substances, apparently a requisite in contemporary family films). For adults, it’s a fractured fairy tale packed with rude jokes that will sail over the heads of the kids.
Shrek 2 opens where the original left off, with Shrek and Princess Fiona, both contentedly in ogre form, on their honeymoon. What’s next? A visit (with Donkey at their side) to meet her parents, the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) of a jumping realm known as Far Far Away. To put it mildly, the royal folks are distressed by the kids’ whole ogre thang, and the King cooks up a scheme to end the union.
The principal voice cast, still in dandy form, return for this outing, except for John Lithgow. Apparently two kings is one too many. In addition to Cleese and Andrews, newcomers include Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous) as a wicked Fairy Godmother, Rupert Everett as the ever-so-well-groomed Prince Charming and Antonio Banderas, providing lots of fun as Puss in Boots, an ogre killer with a heart of gold. Joan Rivers and Larry King make cameo appearances.
The Kingdom of Far Far Away bears a striking resemblance to Beverly Hills and Hollywood, allowing the creative team to do lots of gags about movies, show business and upscale living, in addition to skewering more fairy tales. Wish they had stuck to the bedtime story satires, because the practice of film folks joking about themselves has been done to death in other comedies.
There you have it. Shrek 2, more diffuse than and not as funny as the first, but still a superior sequel.