Shrek 2

Shrek 2

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Fairytale plots were invented before the money-making potential of sequels was well understood, and recounting the after part of happily ever after is no easy task. Shrek 2 actually does a fairly good job of it, with a well-constructed story which manages to provide romantic tension despite the fact the central characters have already fallen in love and married.

The new characters are, for the most part, well-judged. Julie Andrews and John Cleese wisely tone down their familiar styles as Princess Fiona's parents, Rupert Everett is convincing as the somewhat wooden Prince Charming, and, though Jennifer Saunders' hamminess seems aimed strictly at US accent-groupies, her Fairy Godmother still has a certain charm, being one part Corleone. As the dashing assassin Puss in Boots, Antonio Banderas is perfectly cast, and there is not one moment of his performance which is not worth watching.

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Despite all this, Shrek 2 is not remotely as satisfying as its predecessor. It's not that the original characters have lost their charm, but rather that the script relies too much on our eagerness to see them no matter how tediously they might be behaving. Scenes of family drama are well crafted and surprisingly engaging, even pleasing the younger members of the audience who probably miss much of their humour, but too much of the film divides itself into jokes for adults and jokes for kids, as if its makers have forgotten how to interest both at once.

This is mirrored by the music. Nick Cave and Tom Waits work surprisingly well in the sleazy bar scenes, but much of the music seems aimed exclusively at nine-year-olds, and the final song is utterly out of place. There's also a lack of resolution with regard to the first film's secondary relationship. Although it's clear that the Dragon must have been involved in this story, we never see her; this is uncomfortably at odds with the fairytale structure yet seems to have no narrative purpose.

Many critics have enthused about the animation in this film, but one suspects they're simply saying what they think they should say. Though there are no noticeable glitches, and some of the work has improved since last time, this doesn't feel like cutting-edge stuff the way the first film did. Parts of it have become gimmicky, like the film's use of reference, which is sometimes fun but is, in general, overblown; it's relying too heavily on borrowed jokes. It has become too self-conscious.

Reviewed on: 11 Jul 2007
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Shrek and Princess Fiona travel to the Kingdom of Far, Far Away, where everyone seems determined to break up their relationship.
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Read more Shrek 2 reviews:

David Haviland *****
Angus Wolfe Murray ****

Director: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon

Writer: J. David Stem, Joe Stillman, David N. Weiss, characters by William Steig

Starring: voices of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Rupert Everett, Julie Andrews, Kate Thornton, Jonathan Ross

Year: 2004

Runtime: 90 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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If you like this, try:

Shrek
Shrek The Third