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Shrek 2: Frank's Take

01/06/2004. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Shrek 2 in the USA - or Buy Shrek 2 in the UK

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In Shrek 2, we are gleefully reunited with the amiable pot-bellied giant and his colorful crew of supporters that include his new wife Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and his old sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy).

Shrek 2 (2004). DreamWorks. 1 hour 33 minutes. Starring: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Rupert Everett, Antonio Banderas, Cody Cameron, Larry King, Justin Timberlake. Directed by: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon.

Well gang, it seems that our lovable green friend is back on our radar screens to take us on a continued joyous adventure. No, this reference isn’t aimed toward Kermit the Frog or The Hulk although they certainly fit the bill of being green, misunderstood and lovable.

In this case, we are referring to everybody’s favorite good-natured Oscar-winning ogre Shrek (Mike Myers). In Shrek 2, we are gleefully reunited with the amiable potbellied giant and his colorful crew of supporters that include his new wife Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and his old sidekick Donkey (Eddie Murphy).

Shrek 2 movie review

What’s amazingly gutsy about Shrek 2 is its ability to dare to duplicate the infectious wit of its Academy-Award winning predecessor. And guess what…it not only matches the flowing charm of its original but stands alone as its own frothy session of laughs.

As a delightfully suitable sequel in every sense of the word, Shrek 2 delivers the fairy tale goods. As clichéd as this may sound, good old Shrek and company will certainly entertain children of all ages and have a devilish time doing so in the process. One will appreciate the sly humor and comfortable storytelling mode of this high-caliber giddy kiddie fable.

After winning over the pressures of courtship for Princess Fiona’s affections in the first installment, Shrek must now come to grips in dealing with that domestic reality known as the dreaded in-laws. Before Shrek has to worry about how he will be perceived by his lovely Fiona’s parents, he and his new bride engage in some funny and unorthodox honeymoon high jinks that includes randomly tossing mermaids in the sea.

The happy couple are enjoying their union together and things couldn't be better. But again, didn’t we mention the inevitable confrontation concerning Fiona’s folks meeting their new ominous-looking and oafish son-in-law?

As the newlyweds endure the insufferable antics of Donkey who acts like an irritable third wheel, they receive word that Fiona’s parents Queen Lillian and King Harold (Julie Andrews and John Cleese) would like to meet and greet their daughter’s newly anointed husband. Yikes! Shrek is not clueless and realizes that his unique appearance may determine the way Fiona’s parents view him negatively.

More importantly, they could blame poor Shrek for the sudden physical change of their precious daughter Fiona who has transformed into the green ogre spousal version of her hefty hubby. Apparently, it looks like the royal couple will be crowned when being presented with the shocking news that their "baby girl" and her loving partner are hideously upsetting to them.

As Shrek correctly imagined, King Harold and Queen Lillian were aghast by the presence of the unconventional-looking married couple.

Feeling inadequate and annoyed by his father-in-law’s rejection and unfair judgment of him, Shrek cops an attitude that’s moody yet understandable. Unfortunately for Shrek, his surly behavior and obstinate outlook causes Fiona some emotional discomfort toward him.

To further complicate matters, the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) enters the picture with the sole purpose of trying to hook up the disillusioned Fiona with the dashing but doltish Prince Charming (Rupert Everett). Shrek is in danger of losing his beloved Fiona to a handsome cad not to mention the abundant materialistic things that the interfering Fairy Godmother promises to distract his wife with so convincingly.

As if Shrek doesn’t have enough on his mind already, the wily whiskered Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas) arrives on the scene in an attempt to eliminate the befuddled ogre. Puss-in-Boots, the cunning kitten with the a notable killer instinct, is initially hired to off Shrek but ends up being his partner-in-crime by carving out a spontaneous friendship with him.

Of course the spiteful King Harold was behind all the distractions in an effort to discredit Shrek and see to it that his offspring Fiona is freed from her heavyset honeybun while allowing her to come to her senses in time.

Will our heroic Shrek and his pesky partners Donkey and Puss-in-Boots overcome the adversity of the King’s pettiness and prejudices?

Can Shrek capture the love and confidence of his Fiona once again without risking tearing her heart over his embedded insecurities and other people’s ignorance against him? How will Shrek learn to compete in a fantasy world laced with pretty people and their penchant for superficial supply and demand of luxurious items as a twisted priority?

Shrek screenwriters J. David Stem, Joe Stillman, and David N. Weiss do a stand up job in posing these aforementioned questions by developing a snappy satire that minces the "beauty is only skin deep" concept with that of a riotous look at skewering some of the fairy tale genre conventions.

This narrative is clever and wry in its absurd observations of substituting the inclusion of spells, potions, and magical wishes for that of hinted heavenly Hollywood-type goodies that consist of pseudo-prestigious fill-ins regarding glamorous makeovers, acquired property values, expensive shopping havens, picture-perfect soulmates, etc.

The film’s Fairy Godmother comes across as some sort of stylized Tinseltown tease in the manner that she wants to sell the notion of polished dreams to a former privileged princess-turned-misguided peon (translation: Mrs. Shrek). Naturally, Fiona is suppose to take the bait that this form of guaranteed riches that the silver-tongued Fairy Godmother is hawking was meant to be the ultimate synthetic meaning of happiness and security.

As a sequel, Shrek 2 pretty much provides its hearty share of frivolity thanks to a slew of off-kilter characterizations and an overactive finger-snapping soundtrack that made the first film’s identity so invigorating and three-dimensional. Not only is it refreshing to see the celebrated threesome of Myers’s Shrek, Murphy’s Donkey, and Diaz’s Princess Fiona in the middle of the foray once again, the new supporting players bring a whole new freshness and playful ribaldry to the animated proceedings.

As the mischievous hairball Puss-in-Boots, Banderas is a hoot-in-a-half that nearly steals the show. Both Cleese and Andrews play the overprotective and close-minded royal couple with energizing flair. Everett’s Prince Charming is randy as the self-absorbed fussy pretty boy whose arrogance is goofy in nature. Even well-known talkmeister Larry King musters up some serious chuckles as The Ugly Stepsister, the fairy tale fiend that spreads all the informed tidbits about certain individuals within the criminal community.

The fact that Shrek 2 managed to maintain its warped sense of hilarity without heavily relying on its reminiscent blueprint in the first outing shows how confident and concrete the appeal is for the resourceful ogre and his comedic cohorts.

Granted there’s not much difference in the way the filmmakers went all out to conceive a juicy plot that’s drastically distinctive from the first edition of Shrek’s exploits. However, the familiarity of these outrageous personalities and their happy-go-lucky plights will serve as a reminder in how invested we were previously with this imaginative bunch.

Finally, an escapist frolicking feature length fantasy that caters to the cynical and sentimental side of our fun-loving consciousness looking to be fulfilled if not challenged by this irreverent gem. Maybe it’s not easy being green like our well-meaning outcasts Kermit the Frog, The Hulk, and our man-of-the-moment Shrek the ogre, but it’s not difficult in embracing these lost lads as one of our own to accept with penetrating pride.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2004

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