A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Shrek 2

March 16, 2011

Shrek 2

As always when going to view a sequel I was skeptical of this movie when Amanda and I went to see it in the theater. Imagine my delight, therefore, when I discovered that it was one of those rare sequels that is at least as good, if not better than, its predecessor.

We re-join Shrek and Fiona as they return from their honeymoon (which is shown in the opening credits to a Counting Crows song.) They receive an invitation from Fiona’s parents, the king and queen of Far Far Away, to attend a celebratory wedding ball in her home kingdom. Of course Fiona’s parents are somewhat shocked when they find that their daughter is now a full-time ogre and that their son-in-law is an ogre as well. The movie could have been just about this domestic conflict and Fiona’s fight to be accepted for who she is (and her right to marry the man she loves even if he isn’t, technically, a man.) There’s a much ore sinister plot at hand, however, and it’s all because Fiona’s meddling fairy godmother wants to have her son Prince Charming wed Fiona instead.

What’s fun about this movie is that it has all the best characters from the first movie, even the little background characters who were the most enjoyable, and adds a few new characters (and some fantastic voice talent as well.) All without ever feeling like it isn’t part of the same world. Gingy the Gingerbread Man, Pinocchio and the three blind mice, wolf, and three little pigs all get moments to shine and help Shrek out when he’s in a bind. For new characters we have the Fairy Godmother, her son Prince Charming, Puss in Boots and Fiona’s parents.

The Fairy Godmother is a business maven. She has taken the cottage industry of answering dreams and built it into a booming colossal machine. She also has some mysterious history with Fiona’s father – some kind of leverage (which mystery is very well built into the movie so that if you’re paying attention you can pretty easily guess what that leverage is.) And she’s performed by the absolutely fabulous Jennifer Saunders. Her every line is a taut whip-crack driving the entire plot of the movie and she is so wonderfully sinister as an apparently well-meaning busybody. Prince Charming is a brainless pretty mamma’s boy, brilliantly voiced by Rupert Everett. Then there’s Puss in Boots – that feline swashbuckler brought to life by Antonio Banderas. Not only is his voice (and accent) fantastic but his character has some of the funniest lines in the entire movie. In particular the scene where he coughs up a furrball in the midst of an action scene still leaves both Amanda and me in stitches. (Anybody who has cats will recognise that strained/humiliated look and horrifying gacking noise.) To top it all off we have acting royalty in the roles of Fiona’s parents. I mean! John Cleese and Julie Andrews! You hardly need to say anything more.

The jokes and references in this movie are a little more pop-culture and less riffs on classic fairy tales. Oh, you have plenty of fairy tale jokes from Swan Lake to the Headless Horseman but a lot of the humor comes from references to modern day Hollywood. Like Burger Prince and Farbucks and the stretch limo carriage. It makes the Shrek universe a more obvious parody of our world. Which is actually a lot of fun. I love, for example, the joke where Mongo the giant Gingerbread Man destroys one Farbucks and the patrons flee across the street to another one. (It’s an old joke but it’s funny because it’s true. Of course if it were done in Boston they’d both be Dunken Donuts.)

I think it’s so impressive that Dreamworks were able to expand on the Shrek universe while keeping it both familiar and funny. You almost never find a sequel that lives up to its source material, but this movie is the exception that proves the rule. Tomorrow we’ll see if that momentum can be maintained.

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March 16, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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