After the success of the first Shrek, the thought of not having a sequel based on William Steig’s book to come out a few years later would’ve been a crime in entertainment. But let’s not forget how much of a classic the original movie came to be, as it became the most popular movie from DreamWorks catalog then, but it was the very first movie ever to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar when it was first awarded in 2002. As far as animated sequels go, I believe Shrek 2 right up there with Toy Story 2 as one of the greatest animated sequels to come out that appeals to kids’ and adults alike.
What’s the Story: Picking up where the original installment ended, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) and Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz) have returned from their honeymoon and just want to settle down, that is until Fiona’s parents, King Harold (voiced by John Cleese) and Queen Lillian (voiced by Julie Andrews) have invited them to travel to their kingdom of Far, Far Away. Off to see them with Donkey (voiced by Eddie Murphy), little do they know about their daughter’s transformation of an ogre, no one is prepared for how meeting the in-laws would be.
I fell in love with Shrek when I saw it in the theater when I was a kid, and it was a fresh way of looking at a fairy tale in the most alternative way imaginable. Even though I had the internet at my home, I wasn’t aware that a sequel was coming out. Believe it or not, the first time I ever took notice that Shrek 2 was coming out was when I saw that forgettable Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas movie, and this CD-ROM or something had the teaser poster on one side, and I didn’t believe it. Yet, it was. My family and I saw it on opening day (May 19, 2004) and loved it back then, and I still love it now. There’s no shame in saying this is amazing. It was the first movie I ever saw where it thought the sequel is better than the original.
Original co-director Andrew Adamson has returned with Kelly Asbury (Gnomeo and Juliet) and Conrad Vernon (Monsters vs. Aliens) joining him this time. This time around, the improvement of the animation looks better. Just by looking at the characters and the new locations, we get to see fits right into this world. In keeping everything entertaining for its entire 93-minute runtime, it’s able to have its moments of action quick and having the story move fast-paced enough to not be boring.
The returning vocal talents of Myers, Murphy, and Diaz as Shrek, Donkey, and Fiona, respectively, still provide enough energy to their animated counterparts to the point of thinking nobody else would be right if they had replaced either of them. All three of them earned $10 million to return. An excellent move on them, by the way. After watching this, you still love these characters and their own characteristics.
But then you worry about the new characters being included in this series, but they helped this sequel out to its full potential. Probably the best new edition that steals the show comes from the one and only fan-favorite Puss in Boots (voiced to perfection by Antonio Banderas). Puss is a feline assassin hired by the King to take out Shrek but reconsiders and joins Shrek and Donkey on their latest quest. He’s basically the cat version of Zorro, which I can see is an inspiration to his vocal performance. When he makes that cute face with his big eyes, it’s so adorable that they actually made posters from that image.
Out of all the villains in this entire franchise, there’s nothing negative to say about Fairy Godmother (voiced by Jennifer Saunders of Absolutely Fabulous fame) to stop Shrek from having his happily ever after so her own Prince Charming (voiced by Rupert Everett) to move in on Fiona. She’s a notch better than Lord Farquaad because this is a different take on the character in a more villainous way that’s the opposite of what we’ve seen in the movies from Disney, which makes her more memorable. Every scene she’s in is simply the best. Also, seeing Charming as a secondary villain in here makes more sense rather than making him the main villain in the next movie.
With any sequel that comes out, Shrek 2 does a great job of what a follow-up should do: Expand this fairy tale universe and continuing the story the right way. What I didn’t know was that they base the story loosely on Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, which the King and Queen didn’t expect their son-in-law to be an ogre. The awkward dinner scene shows the tension between Shrek and the king, which shows the prejudice the latter has with ogres, and it makes things even hilarious when they tear apart the food at the table in anger. It follows some of the things the last one covered in conveying its message. For my money, Shrek had the right to be angry at Fiona’s father.
Shrek is still a part of a world where he doesn’t feel like he belongs since he’s an ogre. He wants to change the way he is since he doesn’t appear as a Prince Charming-type to be good enough for her. The middle section shows Shrek drinking this Happily Ever After potion to make Fiona happy. The next morning shows him as a handsome human, along with Donkey, who also drank the potion and turned into a white stallion. That part could’ve easily been dumb, but it important to figure out that changing his entire appearance shouldn’t be it. But what matters most is that no matter what, we can’t change what’s inside of us when you should always be yourself in hoping acceptance is the answer. This isn’t even come to my mind the last time I watched this, but talk about deep in a family movie in dealing with personality and acceptance. So much that it can be somewhat relatable to anyone. How about that?
Did I mention it’s funnier than the original? Because it really is. I laughed harder this time. Upon the clever pop-culture jokes when entering Far, Far Away in how it looks like a fantasy take on Beverly Hills or anything that comes out of each character’s mouths, every joke never falls flat. It’s weird how pop culture references in the first two Shrek movies worked well and not the others. One of the funniest moments is when Donkey acting annoying on the lengthy trip, constantly asking, “Are We There Yet?” and then continues to be that way when makes a pop noise with his mouth. Reminded me of a gag in The Simpsons. Even the parody of TV’s Cops entitled Knights just kills me with the literal pepper spray, the O.J. Simpson reference, and yelling “police brutality.”. I now notice certain jokes that I didn’t get when I was young. For instance, Fiona has a Chastity Belt Concert Tour poster in her old room, or the in the opening when Charming spots the Wolf reading “Pork Illustrated.”
Now with the soundtrack, it might’ve not had Smash Mouth, but I can easily say it’s on par with the original and fits well into the story now that I think about it. The song everybody recognizes from this is Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love,” which was played during the opening montage of Shrek and Fiona being madly in love. And I also can’t forget Saunders’ awesome cover of “Holding Out for a Hero” that was sung during the third act climax, which I might add is one of the best scenes in animated history. Plus, you also have Dashboard Confessional’s “As Lovers Go,” a new version of David Bowie’s “Changes” with Butterfly Boucher, and Frou Frou’s take on “Holding Out for a Hero” that played during the end credits.
Shrek 2 was a huge critical and financial success at the time of its release. The film became the highest-grossing movie the year it came out domestically and worldwide, making it the studio’s most successful film to date. Along with an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, it also earned two Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song (“Accidentally in Love”), which lost to The Incredibles and “Al otro loado del Rio” from The Motorcycle Diaries, respectively. But maybe why I love this is because this was the first movie I saw twice in theaters. My dad and I saw this, along with A Cinderella Story (why?) the same weekend when my mom and sister were out of town.
2004 was filled to the brim of brilliant movies, and this is one of the top ten best, let alone the only good movie studio released that year that wasn’t Shark Tale. Shrek 2 is superior to the first film, which I also love, in how it builds upon its predecessor to great heights with its animation, humor, and just knows how to be fulfilling to everyone. This could’ve been a one-off sequel that offers little of what many expect, but you just come so enchanted by how fun this turned out to be. If only we had better sequels after this. Here, we have the best movie to come from DreamWorks Animation that never loses steam with every watch. I highly recommend you guys to watch this if you haven’t in a long time.
Overall Grade: A