Monday, March 28, 2016

#2,051. Shrek 2 (2004)

Directed By: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon

Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz

Tag line: "Not so far, far away..."

Trivia: Jennifer Saunders got a voice coach to help her sing for the Fairy Godmother's opening number

By the end of 2001’s Shrek, it looked as if our hero (Shrek, an ogre) and his new bride (Princess Fiona, also an ogre) were going to live happily ever after. But as is often the case with a hit movie, Shrek, Fiona, and all their storybook friends would go on a few more adventures before being allowed to ride off into the sunset. 2004’s Shrek 2, the first of the sequels (two additional films would follow: 2007’s Shrek the Third and 2010’s Shrek Forever After), offers a nice mix of old and new that, in the end, makes the entire journey worthwhile.

Shortly after returning home from their honeymoon, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) receive an invitation from Fiona’s parents, the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) of Far, Far Away, who want to throw a post-wedding bash for the happy couple. Though Shrek is against making the trip, Fiona insists upon it, and after loading their belongings, as well as Shrek’s annoying best friend Donkey (Eddie Murphy), into their carriage, they set off for the kingdom of Far, Far Away (which, as you can imagine, is very far away). While Shrek continues to believe this family reunion will only lead to trouble, Fiona is anxious to see her parents, and is convinced they’ll love Shrek just as much as she does.

What Fiona doesn’t realize is that everyone in the kingdom thinks she was rescued from the Dragon’s tower by Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), and that he is her new betrothed. Needless to say, the populace of Far, Far Away, and especially the king, are none too happy to learn there’s now an ogre in the Royal family. Even Fiona’s Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) is miffed (mostly because Charming is her son), and insists that the king do whatever it takes to squeeze Shrek out of the picture. When the king’s hired assassin, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), instead becomes Shrek’s newest buddy, The Fairy Godmother takes matters into her own hands and conjures up an elixir that’s sure to make Fiona fall in love with her son. Not willing to sit back and watch as his marriage slip away, Shrek and his pals sneak into the Fairy Godmother’s spell factory and steal a potion he believes will help him keep Fiona. But when the potion has an unexpected effect on him and Donkey, Shrek realizes he may have no alternative but to let go of the only woman he’s ever loved.

As they did in the original film, Shrek and Donkey share some great scenes in Shrek 2, with Eddie Murphy once again stealing the show as the lovable but irritating Donkey (the long carriage ride to Far, Far Away, during which Donkey refuses to keep his mouth shut, is easily one of the film’s best sequences). Cameron Diaz, who got a few laughs of her own in Shrek, is a bit calmer this time around, doing her damnedest to prevent Shrek and Donkey from getting into too much trouble; and the various make believe characters who befriended the trio in the first movie are on-hand once again (a scene in which Pinocchio, dangling from a rope, is told to tell a lie so that his nose will grow is positively hilarious).

Joining them is a handful of new, yet equally as entertaining characters. The always reliable John Cleese (of Monty Python fame) does a fine job as Fiona’s father, the King (who is himself hiding a doozy of a secret), as does Julie Andrews as the Queen. As for the film’s villains, Jennifer Saunders’ Fairy Godmother is the most formidable (at the ball, she sings a rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” that’ll knock your socks off), with Rupert Everett’s Prince Charming, though a bumbling fool, coming in a close second. The best of the bunch, however, is Antonio Banderas’ Puss in Boots, a Zorro-esque feline swordsman whose most lethal weapons are his eyes.

Featuring a solid storyline (there’s a fun twist involving Shrek, Donkey, and the potion they swiped), some pop culture references (with nods to everything from Of Mice and Men to Hawaii Five-O), and a damn fine soundtrack (along with Jennifer Saunders’s “Holding Out for a Hero”, the movie makes excellent use of The Lipps, Inc.’s disco hit, “Funkytown”), Shrek 2 is the finest of the sequels, often rivaling the comedic ingenuity of the first film, and, at times, surpassing it.

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