movie film review | chris tookey

Shrek 2

© DreamWorks - all rights reserved
  Shrek 2 Review
Tookey's Rating
9 /10
Average Rating
7.11 /10
Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy
Full Cast >

Directed by: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon
Written by: J. David Stern, Joe Stillman and David N. Weiss

Released: 2004
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 100

The Oscar-winning, record-smashing Shrek was an easy act to follow. Just put together any old rubbish, call it Shrek 2, and it would have cashed in on its first weekend. To their credit, DreamWorks haven’t done that.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

They’ve fused plenty of verbal wit with more sight gags than in the rest of this year’s movies combined. They’ve hired inventive actors – many of them English – as vocal talent. And they’ve honed a script that is expertly structured with a neat twist. The result is a movie that succeeds in being superior to a very good original. It will appeal as much to sophisticated adults as to very small children, and looks certain to become one of the top five box-office hits of all time.

Princes Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and Fairyland’s answer to John Prescott (Mike Myers) are now happily married ogres, and their idyll is only slightly marred by the fact that Donkey (Eddie Murphy) seems determined to move in with them, following the collapse of his short-lived relationship with a dragon.

But then word comes from Far Far Away, the Hollywood-like fantasy land ruled by Fiona’s parents, tetchy King Harold (John Cleese) and straight-laced Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews), that they wish to give the happy couple their blessing.

Shrek is rightly pessimistic about how his parents-in-law are going to react. Their daughter’s marriage flies in the face of a promise made by King Harold to a Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) that Fiona was to be awakened from her enchanted sleep by a kiss from the Fairy Godmother’s vain son Prince Charming (Rupert Everett).

So, regretfully, King Harold hires an assassin to rid him of his unwanted son-in-law. The hitman is Puss-in-boots, a Zorro-type giant-killer (Antonio Banderas). Confronted by Shrek’s superior strength, Puss cannily changes sides and becomes Shrek’s second sidekick, even though – as Donkey haughtily informs him – “The position of annoying talking animal has already been taken”.

It would be tempting to say that Banderas steals the movie with his wondrously over-dramatic send-up of Hispanic machismo, but that would be to undervalue the rest of the cast.

Julie Andrews and John Cleese have an ease together, especially when bickering, that suggests they really are a long-married couple. Murphy is at his best making an ass of himself. Myers and Diaz find both the humour and the pathos of married people suddenly realising that Living Happily Ever After isn’t just something that happens, but has to be worked at.

The animation is tremendous, with a lot of funny background detail that will make the film worth seeing at least twice.

As in the first movie, the film is full of playful sideswipes at the squeaky-clean, Disney view of the world, not least at the start when Shrek and Fiona are embracing on a beach (in a shot which older moviegoers will notice is the Burt Lancaster-Deborah Kerr clinch From Here To Eternity). The tide washes in, and Shrek is discovered trying to free himself from the over-enthusiastic kisses of The Little Mermaid (clearly her marriage to Prince Eric isn’t going so well).

Whereupon Princess Fiona, in time-honoured Posh Spice style, wrenches the Little Mermaid out of Shrek’s arms and throws her back into the sea, where doubtless even now she is calling up Max Clifford to sell her Memoirs.

Another cheeky movie reference comes when Shrek, Donkey and Puss are shackled in a dungeon, and various fairytale characters come to their rescue, including Pinocchio, in a splendidly malicious satire on Tom Cruise attempting to appear butch in Mission Impossible.

For those adults who care to examine the film closely, there are camp overtones (such as when Queen Lillian rebukes her anxious husband with the words “Stop being a drama King!”) and a weird obsession with cross-dressing (maybe someone at DreamWorks has misconstrued the meaning of Fairytale). But these references are saucy rather than sleazy, and will sail harmlessly over children’s heads.

The film even points a wholesome moral: that interior beauty is more important than the external kind That is, admittedly, the same message as the first Shrek carried. But not many films these days are well-intentioned - and there hasn’t been a movie this year that has been half as funny. There’s enough here to please the most demanding ogre.

Key to Symbols