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Shrek 2

Reviewed By Josh Gryniewicz
Posted 06/06/04 08:13:26

"Same old jokes…still damn funny"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

"Shrek" was a satirical parody that gave a kick in the ass to the Disney – ification of fairyland with a self-effacing spin on the world of Mother Goose and Brother’s Grimm while still delivering a parable worthy of Hans Christian Anderson. With the hype that had been built around the sequel it could be assumed "Shrek 2" was more about perpetuating a franchise with its feature character being reduced to a mean green marketing machine for jumbo cola and cheap plastic toy tie-ins and its story a rehash of old jokes.

This assumption, of course, is accurate, but the formula is done well enough not to matter.

"One’s" innovative formula followed foul-mannered, antisocial Ogre, Shrek (given characterization by Mike Myers hammed up Scottish accent) challenging the archetypally villainous motif of the mythic monster to become an unlikely hero by revealing a capacity for friendship, courage and love that was genuinely heartfelt. Paired with the excessively obnoxious, yet, charmingly hilarious talking Donkey (the best role Eddie Murphy has had in years) the two embarked in an all-too-cliché-rescue-the-fairy-princess-from-the-tallest-tower adventure. Inevitably resulting in a love-conquers-adversity-accept-yourself-for-who-you-are conclusion.

Here the late-coming Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) recounts these events in storybook fashion with a narration that sets "Two" in motion. The fresh from a shampoo commercial golden-haired Charming follows the first film’s path only to discover Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) is already on her honeymoon. As whiny as he is arrogant, the mommy’s boy knight complains to Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) whose made a bargain with the King (John Cleese) that her son’s marriage to Fiona is a sure bet. Godmother has enough dirt on his highness to make him honor the arrangement even after Fiona’s already been wed, forcing the King to make some shady moves enlisting the Zorro imitating and adorably lethal assassin, Puss-in-Boots (fittingly vocalized by Antonio Banderas) to kill Shrek.

My first whiff of "Shrek 2" buzz had tainted my perception; reading of the savvy marketing deal the franchise had struck with retail juggernaut Wal-Mart (including Shrek doing their brainwashing cheer) had disheartened me -- he had sold-out; co-opting the Ogre Rights movement and setting it back for years. Actually, after viewing "One" my first thought had been "please don’t ruin it with a sequel" believing there was no way they could match the flair of the first, but while it looses some of its edge, the result is far more entertaining then anticipated.

An amusing event occurred while watching the film that illustrates how the formula manages to pull off the punch line repetition effect. The row immediately in front of me was packed with 8 year olds, who, in the moments before Shrek chastises Donkey for not entertaining himself (a clip exhaustively played in promotion of the film) began taking turns emulating the character’s annoying lip smacks. When Shrek gave his cue, the row fell silent, only to burst into a fit of laughter as soon as Donkey delivers. Even when the jokes are well worn they can still have the desired impact (especially when, like me, you have a mentality of an 8-year-old).

By broadening the pop-cultural pool of material it parodies – everything from "Beauty & the Beast" to "Cops" with dips into "Spiderman" and "LOTR" the formula strikes a note of freshness. Add to the mix Tom Waits belting out "Little Drop of Poison" as Capt. Hook; Donkey referencing "Sanford & Son"; Larry King as the Ugly Stepsister and the blend captures a new level of cleverness.

Even with all its prepackaged aspects, both the commercialized and plot theme varieties, the sequel captures the touching flavor as the first and remains funny in doing so.

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