It was never in doubt that 'Shrek 2' would make loads of money at the box office, what with it's cast of A-list stars and status as successor to the fantastically successful original. The big question was as to whether 'Shrek 2' would be able to measure up to it's predecessor, quality wise.
Luckily, we can put that question to rest with a resounding 'YES!'. Plain and simple, 'Shrek 2' is a helluva lot of fun, and it's just as creative and original as the first time through (as nonsensical as that sounds). Once again, we're treated to delightful animation, an engaging storyline, plenty of witty jokes, and some lovable characters.
Shrek and Fiona are now happily married, having just returned from their honeymoon during the opening musical montage (set to the enjoyable 'Accidentally in Love' from the Counting Crows). Before they can settle down to a healthy dose of marital bliss however, they're interrupted with an invitation to the land of Far Far Away, sent by Fiona's royal parents. They're eager to meet the dashing prince who rescued their daughter. Shrek is reluctant to accept, seeing as Fiona's parents aren't aware she's married to a horrible ogre. Not to mention their daughter is now a horrible ogre as well.
Fiona is insistent, and Shrek eventually relents. Accompanied by Donkey they set of for Far Far Away. The city is a dead-ringer for Beverly Hills, complete with stretch carriages. Fiona's parents aren't exactly thrilled to meet Shrek and soon the Ogre is at odds with his wife. To make matters worse, the industrial tycoon Fairy Godmother is planning to do away with Shrek, and marry Fiona to Prince Charming (her son).
The story unfolds in imaginative ways and generally manages to avoid the pitfalls of predictability or ubercuteness. As in the first installment, 'Shrek 2' is packed with intelligent wit and humour, as well a few more crude jokes for the wee little ones. There's plenty to appeal to adults here, with smug nods to movies like Aliens, Spider-man, and Mission Impossible 2 (to name a few). The humour rarely ever fails, and it's always well executed and usually works on several levels. You can pick out some classic Myers lines, as well as several subtle digs and word plays. 'Shrek 2's imagination is essentially unlimited, and there's always something new and original just around the corner.
This time around, DreamWorks has thrown in a few new characters for us to enjoy. Perhaps most appreciated is Puss'n'Boots, wonderfully voiced by Antonio Banderas. An accomplished assassin with a cute face and a Spanish accent, Puss gets some of the choicest lines and never fails to deliver them perfectly. Jennifer Saunders does an excellent job as the Fairy Godmother, and manages to belt out a few songs with surprising competency. In fact, just as before, the movie comes complete with a comletley fitting and thoroughly enjoyable soundtrack. Also debuting are John Cleese, Julie Andrews, and Rupert Everett. Without exception, the voice acting is of the highest quality and doesn't falter throughout the length of the movie.
There's some excellent set pieces and action sequences to work around, and 'Shrek 2' uses them to it's complete advantage. From the Fairy Godmother's huge industrial potion factory to a siege sequence at the end, everything is executed impeccably. Although the movie is a bit slow to get underway, it keeps up a fast and enjoyable pace until the end. There's lots of humour, plenty of action, and a few lessons for the kids.
The animation hasn't superficially progressed greatly from the original movie, but still looks great. The motion is fluid and believable, and in general objects are rendered realistically. Hair movement and the like still isn't quite on par with 'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within', nor are the human models quite as detailed. Granted, 'Shrek 2' is firmly entrenched on the 'cuteness' side of reality, but nevertheless there remains a question of technical proficiency. Aside from these two areas however, 'Shrek 2' is technologically unchallenged in the CG area.
The original 'Shrek' built on an excellent dynamic between Myers' Shrek and Diaz's Fiona, but this time it's all but gone. Make no mistake about it, this movie is a vehicle for Shrek himself. Fiona doesn't get involved in the action, and as a result the movie doesn't quite have the charm of the first one. That's not to say 'Shrek 2' won't make you feel all cuddly (cause it probably will, unless you're a zombie or something, which hopefully you're not. but if you are, that's ok) it just comes across as a little less honest. This movie has 'marketing goliath' written all over that, and it's hard to completely immerse yourself in the story when you keep on picturing an ogre trying to sell you a minivan.
'Shrek 2' still delights, and it hasn't lost any of the wit or simplicity that made the first one such a huge success. It's undoubtedly a great movie, and a wholly enjoyable one - for kids or adults. You're guaranteed a few belly laughs and plenty of snickers, but the movie still lacks something intangible. It's small and hardly noticeable, but 'Shrek 2' just doesn't have the sweetness of the original one.
Not that we're concerned with stuff like that, being manly men and all. but if we weren't, we would be. So there.