Archive for Friday, May 21, 2004

Shrek 2’ recaptures zany magic of original flick

(PG) **1/2

May 21, 2004

The large green monster with the serious attitude problem is back ...
and, thankfully, it's not the Hulk.

Three years after the original "Shrek" raked in $270 million at the
box-office and won an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, the inevitable
sequel has materialized. In the grand scheme of things, "Shrek 2" is
an unneeded commodity. But the movie proves entertaining and
refreshingly silly.

It's this zany juxtaposition of pop-culture references and storybook
imagery that gives the animated film its identity. Where else could
characters such as Pinocchio, the Three Blind Mice and the
Gingerbread Man comfortably work around in-joke parodies of "Mission:
Impossible," "Cops," "Seinfeld," Justin Timberlake and all things
Hollywood?

"Shrek 2" begins with the surly ogre (voiced with far less of a
Scottish accent this time by Mike Myers) and his princess bride Fiona
(Cameron Diaz) enjoying a fairy-tale honeymoon. When Fiona's parents
summon her to their kingdom, she agrees to return, despite the fact
that they know nothing of her being "cursed with a frightful
enchantment." She still looks like a female version of Shrek, while
they are expecting her to look like ... well, Cameron Diaz.

Joined by their annoying talking Donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek and
Fiona venture to the land of Far Far Away. The King (John Cleese) and
Queen (Julie Andrews) are less than comfortable with this familial
homecoming, so the monarch sets in motion a series of events to break
up the happy couple and replace Shrek with the vain Prince Charming
(Rupert Everett).

While some of the novelty has inescapably worn off, "Shrek 2" tries
hard to keep the story compelling. The plot seems like a logical
extension of the first film rather than a rehash. A new batch of
characters really adds flavor, especially the Fairy Godmother
(Jennifer Saunders), who has turned her skill with potions and charms
into a corporate empire like a medieval Martha Stewart. And she is
equally as aloof and malicious.

Also quite funny is Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), who is part
mercenary/part Latin lover. But he is all cat, as in a riotous gag
where the furry fellow must excuse himself from a crucial battle to
cough up a hair ball.

The movie is certainly wonderful to look at. "Shrek 2" doesn't have
the groundbreaking quality of Pixar projects such as "Finding Nemo,"
yet it's vivid and crisp, especially when it comes to rendering human
characters. (The more visually crude first "Shrek" was populated by
citizens who appeared to be composed of Play-Doh caked on wire
frames.)

But it's also the sheer amount of details that give the picture its
sassiness. "Shrek 2" approaches the level of "The Simpsons" in that
so many jokes are embedded into the background that they are often
missed upon an initial viewing. One such example comes during a
battle scene in the city's downtown when a citizen is hurled from a
coffee shop named Farbucks across to the Farbucks located on the
other side of the street.

At times these pop-culture anomalies are a bit smothering. There is a
fine line between name-dropping a product or TV show for laughs and
genuinely writing something that is funny on its own merit.

The nadir of these moments comes during an all-cast musical finale
set to the overused strains of Ricky Martin's "Mi Vida Loca."

Speaking of coughing up a hairball.

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