Action Movie (Sunday): Shrek 2

It is time for Action Movie… Sunday, where I treat an action movie like an action movie and not like a drama and stuff. All movie reviews are subjective and while I may like something, you might think it’s shit, and vice versa!

Title: Shrek 2
MPAA Rating: PG
Release: 2004
Genre: animated, action, fantasy, buddy movie, comedy
Starring: Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Antonia Banderas, Jennifer Saunders
Director: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
Writer: Andrew Adamson, Joe Stillman, J. David Stem, David M. Weiss, William Steig (book)
Distributor: Dreamworks
Budget: $150 Million
Box Office: $937 Million

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 88%

Gingersnaps Rating: Four and a Quarter Cookies!

Summary:

Shrek and Fiona have returned from their honeymoon, just in time to get an invitation to meet Fiona’s parents. The rulers of Far, Far Away, King Harold and Queen Lillian wish Shrek and Fiona come to visit so Shrek may receive their royal blessing. All isn’t well though when Harold finds out that Shrek is an ogre and not the Prince he’d chosen for her. He’s not the only one who is upset, Prince Charming and Fairy Godmother are also displeased with Fiona’s new husband. And all three are looking to remove Shrek, for good.

Review:

Shrek 2 is the follow up to the much loved Shrek. And like its predecessor, it parodied fairy tale traditions without being directly based on a fairy tale itself. (In fact, this was a controversial decision and some of the original team left because of it.)

Previously in Shrek, Shrek met Fiona when he rescued her from her tower. She was a fiery princess and they shared a lot in common. Despite the fact, Shrek was an ogre and Fiona was a beautiful princess. But hey, they got past their differences somehow and Shrek took a risk to be with the woman he loved.

You know, after knowing her for two days.

But they got married and went on a honeymoon.

And here we are at Shrek 2, which shows us the consequences of what happens when you marry someone after two days and you know, don’t discuss things like who your families are and what do you feel about kids. Because, Fiona’s a Princess and her family is, well, the King and Queen of Far, Far Away. And the King and Queen learned (somehow) that Fiona had been rescued and where to send their messengers to issue an invitation for Fiona to bring her new husband home. This ends up causing fights as Fiona drags her introvert husband to Far, Far Away and “reminds” him that she changed for him. (I thought that was against the message of the previous movie. It was really jarring in context.)

Without knowing that Shrek is an ogre. Meet the parents, fairy tale style. And hey, what about Prince Charming, the guy that was supposed to rescue Princess Fiona. What’s he up to and what backing does he have? This leads us to the best villain of the series, Fairy Godmother. Fairy Godmother is supposed to be helping with every Princesses Happily Ever After, but she’s got her own agenda too.

Shrek was your rather simplistic, must save the damsel in distress twice, type of story. Shrek 2 gets a bit more complicated. And, it’s all for the good. The characters have multiple layers and motivations and sure, if you pay attention you might catch everything the first time.

The character Puss in Boots, like Beauty & the Beast, comes from the French tradition of storytelling. And, Puss was an ogre slayer in those stories, though ogres in those stories were shape shifters. It was a nice touch. Adding Puss broke up the monotony of Donkey yammering all the time.

All in all, it was a good story, funny and the marketing was genius. So, I’ll give it a gingersnap.

As always, it is really difficult to get an explosion into a medieval setting movie. However, I do trade in for “oh shit” moments that aren’t plot necessary. I have one word for Shrek 2, Mongo. Mongo wasn’t necessary. He was over the top. He was hysterical and yeah, glorious. One gingersnap.

The fights in Shrek 2 were entertaining, mainly because they involved Puss in Boots acting out Banderas’ earlier role of Zorro, except as a cat, with cat ability to jump and reflexes. There was also the outstanding potion room escape scene. One Gingersnap.

But here we are, at the main point of weakness for Shrek. On one hand, we have Fairy Godmother, a villainess calling the shots, wielding magic and manipulating everyone around her to get what she wants. On the other hand, we have Fiona and Lillian. Fiona has no agency and the movie tends to push her around willy nilly to be whatever she needs to be at that moment. Lillian has even less of a role. (It seemed a waste of the delightful talents of Julie Andrews.) She spends most of her time sighing and scolding Harold without really doing anything. Yes, I understand, the story is about Shrek. Fiona plays a huge part in Shrek’s story as we’re being shown it. So, her lack of agency and power is frustrating. Half a cookie.

In Shrek 2, the team expands the universe of Shrek. We’d only see a small part of it in the first movie, Farquaads little Duchy. And Shrek 2 takes us several hundred miles away to Far, Far Away, a place that is modelled more after Hollywood than a medieval town. (This also begs the question of how did Gingi and the others get to Shrek so quickly to rescue him? Ugh, movie logic.)

But here is where the movie breaks down a little. Shrek had a complete little universe. Sure, it was a tad referential to all the fairy tales we know and love and it poked fun at things like amusement parks and wrestling. But you only have to know about Amusement Parks and wrestling in general to get the jokes. Shrek 2 got a bit too referential. I can’t see the future. I don’t have a crystal ball. But, I don’t think in 50 or more years that kids or adults are going to get the picture of Prince Charles on the mirror. The Sir Justin Timberlake poster on the bedroom wall isn’t necessarily going to be relevant. Starbucks and Versace and Burger King may be big now, but later, you might have to have a trivia guide to understand the visual puns in this movie. Yes. They’re funny. Hee hee. But they also needed to be able to stand on their own without said trivia guide and I’m not sure they can. So, I need to take a bite out of this cookie.

Shrek 2 is arguably better than the original. It was more over the top and absurd and dealt with the consequences of Shrek and Fiona’s marriage realistically or as realistically as fairy tales can get. However, Fiona still has no agency. Even if Fairy Godmother was a great villain. Four and a quarter Gingersnaps.

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