Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
It’s very funny but a bit less playful than the first one. It’s not the same film, which is important to remember. Major new characters are introduced, and most of the old ones return.
This time around the core of the movie is not getting to know and appreciate ogre-ness, it’s seeing how Shrek and Fiona deal with marital and family issues. That puts a bit of a damper on things, if only because the humor must now slant towards more familiar areas (jealousy, rivalry, sinister plots, family, satire, etc.)
None of which is bad, given the skewing of this movie to a somewhat older audience than the first, but if you think of sports metaphors, Shrek 2 is a homer inside the park; Shrek was a homer outside the park. Both are winners, but there is a difference.
There are a lot of laughs, even if the satire is a bit familiar. The land of Far Far Away looks a bit like Hollywood, and the swipes at Disney that occur throughout the movie are a bit tiresome. My favorite character was the Fairy Godmother, voiced impeccably by Jennifer Saunders. A close second is Puss in Boots, voiced terrifically well by Antonio Banderas as a take-off on Zorro; I just wish he had been in the movie more, though the “rivalry” that develops between him and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) is quite humorous.
The extras on the DVD are a bit thin; I have not yet checked them all out, but we are sort of going down familiar paths here. You can tell from the recorded commentary that those responsible have seen this movie many many times; it is not any fault of theirs that their observations are a bit formulaic by now.
Technically, the animation is superb. A world is created here that is not real and a cartoon like quality is preserved even in scenes where nature is realistically displayed. Some technical effects are amazing even if subtle; the graininess of the “home movie” view of Shrek and Fiona at the very beginning is quite realistic (they use film in fairy tale land, not digital movie cameras?) and the rippling surface of reflecting water in a stream is truly astonishing. (Listen to the description of water surface animation in the old movie The Abyss and you’ll see how far we have come with computerized animation of water surfaces in just a short period of time).
I did have one criticism of the animation. I get the impression that the surface detail of Shrek and Fionas faces has been made more realistic and complex since the first movie (for example, you see freckles on the top of Shrek’s head). I really wonder if it’s a wise decision to make cartoon character “more realistic.” I suppose that’s a philosophical question, but at times I was being reminded of The Hulk when looking at Shrek, and I don’t think that was intended.