There are more than enough movies in this world whose central plot is about meeting the in-laws (in this case “Shrek 2”). More than enough about the groom doing everything he can to win the heart of his woman’s very rich father (in this case the King of Far Far Away). More than enough about the father’s secret plot to wedge in the “better” candidate (in this case Prince Charming). We’re just simply going through the motions of another contrived plot in another contrived film.
But everytime I recall the events listed in the above parenthesis, I can’t help but at least smile at the leftover twisted brilliance the filmmakers brought to “Shrek’s” sequel. There’s just something about a wolf in a pink muumuu dancing with his three pigs that makes this film as clever as it is, and no Disney character is safe.
When we last left Shrek (Mike Myers) he had just tied the knot with the once beautiful Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) who is now a large green ogre, but a happy ogre. Now the parents of Fiona want to meet their new son-in-law but unbeknownst to them Fiona’s knight in shining army turned out to be an ugly ogre, and super-ly unbeknownst to them Fiona is now one too.
Accompanying Shrek and Fiona to the Kingdom of Far Far Away (a perfect parody of pretentious Hollywood) is Donkey (Eddie Murphy) who quickly loses his welcome by his non-stop “Are we there yet?” nagging. Quick side-question: Ever wonder why Donkey’s parents named him Donkey? Is it a common name for donkeys as John or Mike is for people, or is it like naming your son ‘human’?
Their eventually arrival in Far Far Away sets the stage for where the rest of the movie plays out, but fortunately this is a movie in which you can forget all about the humdrum storyline and concentrate on the exuberant characters. For example, we find an unlikely villain in Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders), a sorceress of sorts who is determined to separate Shrek from Fiona because her son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), was once betrothed to Fiona but was beat out by Shrek when he rescued her in the first movie.
The best thing to happen to the movie is the arrival of Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas), a Zoro-like hit-cat whose presence is highly exaggerated by the townsfolk and the film’s use of shadows. How on earth did Puss get a reputation for assassination and get reached by the king himself to take part in a dirty conspiracy to kill Shrek so Prince Charming can reclaim his prized princess?
The two confront each other and Puss quickly realizes that killing Shrek is not going to happen...so he decides to join his team against the wishes of the envious Donkey who reminds Shrek, “there's room for only one annoying talking animal sidekick.” Possibly, but if Donkey knew better he’d keep quiet as Puss is the new favorite in town. Banderas’s voice, when not replaced by cat-howling sound effects, adds a lively touch to our new favorite character. As Shrek says so affectionately, “Just look at ‘is little boots!”
The animation looks crisper this time around though the pace is so quick there’s no time to count glitches. Only when the camera pans to a crawl can we appreciate the lifelike CGI, especially when we see the shocked faces of the townspeople when they learn their beloved princess is an ugly ogre of a kind that the men hunt with their pitchforks.
An aspect I’ve always appreciated from the “Shrek” franchise is the upbeat soundtrack, consisting of popular alternative radio tracks which may be the reason why Smash Mouth might still have a music career. In the finale of “Shrek 2” Fairy Godmother belts out an entertaining number which reminds us that not even the “Shrek” films are above the tradition where the characters of animated films break out in choreographed dance and song.
By the time we get to the end, “Shrek 2” becomes a whirlwind of unforgettable events, but as long as more and more characters return or show up for the first time, there’s something to savor and another reason for me to give this film a positive review. Pinocchio is hysterical as we feel sorry for him -- unable to hide his little underwear secret. The devouring of the Little Mermaid was too quick to laugh at, but the Three Blind Mice are excellent in their senile ways, and so are the three pigs, the wolf and his pink muumuu.
Number two isn’t as good as number one, but that’s if you believe about half of the critics as certainly the other half believes the second film is a “rare” accomplishment -- when the sequel outshines the original. I don’t necessarily look forward to a “Shrek 3,” however if the “Pitch Black” and “The Mummy” franchises can do it, I wouldn’t so much mind a “Chronicles of Puss-n-Boots.”