Oh, stop reading now and just go to the movie.
All you need to know from me is that “Shrek 2” is pure enjoyment, with stunningly brilliant technology and hilarious performances. And (here is the most important part) it has a script that is filled with wit, wisdom, heart, and so-funny-you’ll-have-to-see-it-twice comedy, with nonstop humor ranging from subtle and sophisticated satire to unabashedly un-subtle slapstick and potty jokes. Telling you any of the specifics before you see it would just spoil the delicious surprises you have in store. So go see it now, and then come back and read the rest of the review.
Back already? For those who were laughing too hard to follow all of the plot, here’s a summary. Shrek (voice of Michael Myers) and Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) are blissfully married and honeymooning in a gingerbread house, Hansel’s Honeymoon Hideaway. When they get back to the swamp, Donkey (voice of Eddie Murphy) is waiting to welcome them home. Heralds appear with a flourish of trumpets and an invitation from Fiona’s parents to a ball in honor of the newlyweds. Shrek does not want to go. He does not think Fiona’s parents will approve of him. But Fiona persuades him, and they set off for Fiona’s kingdom, a land called Far Far Away.
Fiona’s parents, King Harold (voice of John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (Julie Andrews) are a bit taken aback at the sight of the newlyweds. They were expecting a human princess married to Prince Charming, not two big green ogres.
The queen sees how happy Fiona is and tries to adjust, but the king, pushed by Fairy Godmother (voice of “Absolutely Fabulous” star Jennifer Saunders) does everything he can to get rid of Shrek, even hiring a hit man, or, more properly a hit cat — none other than the swashbuckling Puss in Boots (voice of Antonio Banderas). But the bigger obstacle to the couple’s living happily ever after is Shrek himself, who worries that Fiona would be better off married to a handsome prince. So he sets out in search of a magical solution.
And before we get to the happily ever after ending, there will be encounters with characters from the first film, including Pinocchio, the three pigs, Sleeping Beauty, and the Gingerbread Man, and a bunch of new characters, including a growly-voiced wicked stepsister (voice of Larry King!) and a very effete Prince Charming, who tosses his hair in slow motion (voice of Rupert Everett). The movie manages to make fun of just about everything, including its fairy tale sources, and yet be so resonant of the true themes of fairy tales that it is genuinely touching.
The technology continues to be astonishing. The surfaces and textures are eye-poppingly vivid, almost real-er than real. The movie has breathtakingly beautiful backgrounds, exquisite detail, and characters so magnificently yet subtly expressive you expect to see them interviewed by James Lipton on Bravo. The voice talent is spectacular and perfectly integrated with the expressions and gestures of the animated characters. It’s going to be hard to think of the dashing and brilliantly funny Banderas as anything but a cat from now on.
There is a lot to look at, but there is even more to feel, with characters so tender and charming that you will cheer for a happily-ever-after-ending — and cheer even louder at the annoucement of “Shrek 3.”
Parents should know that the movie has some crude and vulgar humor including jokes about bathroom functions and jokes about a male character wearing ladies’ underwear. There are scenes in a tavern. The movie has some moments of mild peril and tension. The only casualties are an enchanted character and a couple of fish.
Families who see this movie should talk about the experiences family members had in meeting the friends and families of the people they love. Were they nervous? What did they do to get to know each other? Do you agree with the decision Shrek and Fiona make at the end of the movie? Why? Shrek tells Fiona he won’t change and she says she has changed for him. What changes do they make? And families who enjoy this movie might like to try fingerbowls!
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original Shrek and Pixar animated classics like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and A Bug’s Life. They might also like to read the William Steig book about Shrek and some of his others, including Spinky Sulks.