Shrek 2

The first sequel of this summer movie season has hit. With large shoes to fill, Shrek 2 has the audacity to actually be a sequel rather than just a rehashed and repackaged version of the original with a number slapped on it. Hey, at least there’s no colon.

Picking up right after the honeymoon of Shrek and Princess Fiona, royal messengers summon the two to Fiona’s homeland, the land of Far Far Away, for a weekend with the folks. Little do they know a resentful father, a scheming Fairy Godmother, and a metrosexual Prince Charming all stand in their way, preventing the two from living happily ever after.

The original Shrek was more of an adventurous fairy tale farce, the sequel is actually a heart warming story posing the question of “What is true love?” It’s nothing Unlike the original this isn’t beauty and the beast, beauty is a beast, and two beasts get married and have a party. No, this film is focused more on the nature of why one falls in love in the first place. Pretty deep for a computer animated summer flick. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of pop culture spoofs and fart jokes to lighten the mood.

Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and Mike Myers all return with full force. Murphy and Diaz were both equally as sidelined for the latest additions to the budding franchise. Antonio Banderas steals the show as Puss-in-Boots, the Zorro-esque assassin hired to do away with Shrek. The rival talking animal banter reminds me of the confrontations between Chris Rock and Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 4 (I’m not sure if that’s the best example). The end result left me giggling uncontrollably at the spanglish feline. John Cleese is both menacing and endearing as the bumbling King of Far Far Away. Julie Andrews was wasted; she would’ve been more suited as the Fairy Godmother, though Jennifer Saunders did a bang up job. Rupert Everett: who better to play a flamboyant Prince than a gay Englishman.

The animation is flawless. Just like the original, Shrek 2 has that realistic feel ub the midst of a cartoon environment. The shapes are crisp, at times almost too crisp. A perfect example is the introduction of the Fairy Godmother. She appears from the inside of a bubble, a la The Wizard of Oz. But I was left doing double takes at first glance; she appeared to be too real. The same holds true to Shrek’s nipples and chest hair. I couldn’t help but stare, he was walking around in boxer shorts and socks. It’s a weird contrast to what is otherwise great, yet cartoony animation. But can you really nitpick animation for being to realistic? On than that, the rest of the flick’s animation was picture perfect.

One of the things I liked most about Shrek 2, is that even though it picks up right after Shrek it’s really not all that necessary to have seen the first to get this one. Sure there are some allusions to the original (complete with yet another reference to The Muffin Man), but the story itself stands on its own feet. Shrek and Donkey are not on a quest this time that changes their worldview and makes them fall in love in the process. No, their quest this time out is simply to exist and be accepted. That’s the sort of thing any age group can relate too. Sure it’s an animated flick, sure there are fairy tale elements sewn throughout. Sure it’s the story of a princess and a kingdom, but those underlying themes of innocence that we all know are tainted with little dabs of reality, no matter how silly. Much like Superman II or last summer’s X2: X-Men United, the back-story and introductions are out of the way, now it’s time for a great story with all sorts of twists and turns. Bring on part 3!

I suggest seeing Shrek 2, not just to lift your spirits after having to sit through Van Helsing, but also to relax and plainly enjoy. I haven’t left a theatre with this kind of smile on my face since Elf. Thanks to Shrek 2 for providing a rare, heartwarming gigglefest.