Shrek 2

Shrek 2

directed by Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon

starring Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Julie Andrews

Dreamworks

It’s not easy being green, much less being an ogre. In the summer’s first sure-fire hit, Shrek’s new bride Princess Fiona finds that having a slightly rotund She-Hulk appearance • with trumpets for ears • may go unnoticed in a locked tower or a stinky swamp, but it simply won’t do in a fairytale version of Bel Air.

In Shrek 2, ingenious Dreamworks creators have taken the time-honored comedy device of “meeting the parents” to monstrous new heights, making an animated film that, in the end, more of a hysterically funny, feel-good “date movie” than a children’s classic.

Picking up more or less where the blockbuster original left off, Shrek 2 begins with our unlikely hero (Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) returning to Shrek’s swamp shack after a long and blissful honeymoon. Before they can evict a house-crashing Donkey (Eddie Murphy), the emerald pair are summoned to the Hollywood-echoing Land of Far, Far, Away, where Fiona’s parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) rule. You see, the King and Queen yearn to see their daughter now that’s she’s been cured from the ogre curse by the kiss of a dashing hero.

Unfortunately for them, the Princess is more than an ogre than ever, as Scottish-accented Shrek is hardly Prince Charming.

The bloom begins to fall off the rose when Shrek, anticipating the usual human ignorance and fear, steadfastly refuses to go. However, his resolve weakens when matched against the fairer sex, and, with Donkey riding shotgun, the trio journeys to Far, Far, Away. Shrek’s fears are realized two-fold when the group receives a chilly reception from the shocked in-laws and their disbelieving subjects; the ice soon turns to fire when the King entertains the possibility that his plus-sized daughter could give him a litter of green grandchildren some day.

As a reluctant Shrek and his new father-in-law square off in the castle, the real Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) comes home to Far, Far, Away, sans fair maiden. It seems that Shrek unwittingly beat the fancy-pants prince to the punch when he rescued the princess from her tower prison. This interference with fate doesn’t sit well with Charming’s mother, the suprisingly malevolent Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders, Absolutely Fabulous). With the king under her spell, the two hatch a plot to unite their betrothed offspring — and leave a jolly green giant out in the cold.

With additions to the cast and a very clever script, this much-anticipated second installment of the Disney-bashing Shrek franchise surpasses its box-office-smashing predecessor in wit and charm. The supremely irritating but humorous Donkey stays in the picture for round two, but he’s upstaged by a duplicitous, feline assassin, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas). The adventurers are joined by a irreverent legion of fabled characters culled from the first film, including the Three Blind Mice, the Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf, the Gingerbread Man, and a ladies’ undergarment-wearing Pinocchio (try to explain that one to your kids).

A great ’70s disco soundtrack (!) accompanies the group in a hysterically funny race to thwart the evil Fairy Godmother, and rescue the newlyweds.

Indeed, Shrek 2 is a universal delight that parents will have no problem sitting through a second or even third time; it will certainly tide audiences over until the next slice of rival Pixar’s magic is served.

Note: Dreamworks’ nicely-timed release of the “bonus” Shrek DVD set • in stores last week • is a great way to refresh one’s memory prior to seeing Shrek 2 in theaters. For the seven or so individuals in the country who managed to miss Shrek the first time around, the DVD would also be a surprising introduction to a superb second film. The “bonus” disc , a short Shrek featurette, has a misfiring 3-D option that is more likely to cause watery eyes than choruses of “oohs” and “aahs”. However, it’s a great, but brief, continuation of the first film that sets up the second. The disc is basically a sampling of the new “4-D” Shrek feature at Universal Studios Theme Parks.

Shrek 2: http://www.shrek2.com/

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