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Moriarty Reviews SHREK 2!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

When I reviewed the original SHREK, it was over a month before its release, and it was apparent even at that early screening that Dreamworks Animation had finally found its first audience-pleasing hit. Since then, they have yet to match its impact, but leave it to the inevitable sequel to finally do it again. I’ll be honest... I think both of the SHREK films are pure Teflon. They’re very entertaining in the theater, but there’s almost nothing about them that sticks to you. The biggest problem is that they spend so much of their running time making fun of other movies that they almost turn into a MAD magazine parody instead of telling their own story.

Having said that, I think SHREK 2 is going to be a massive hit, one of the summer’s biggest, and it certainly delivers the goods as far as big laughs are concerned. The story is as simple as possible. Shrek and Fiona return from their honeymoon to learn that they’ve been invited to visit the land of Far, Far Away to visit Fiona’s parents and attend a ball in honor of their marriage. Of course, they take along their “noble steed,” Donkey. There’s some business about the jilted suitor who was supposed to rescue Fiona and break her curse and some direct jabs at the culture of Beverly Hills, but that’s about it as far as story is concerned. All three stars seem more comfortable this time around, and Mike Myers actually seems to be the straight man this time out. Cameron Diaz gets the burden of what little emotional content there is. And, once again, Eddie Murphy gets to cut loose and just be funny without restraint. I don’t know what happens to Murphy when he’s under Rick Baker makeup or animated, but maybe it’s just not worrying about being cool that allows him to be so free and so funny. Whatever the case, he consistently walks that fine line between hilarious and too annoying to watch, and I suspect that Donkey will once again remain an audience favorite.

He’s got competition, though. There are five major new characters introduced this time, to varying degrees of success. Neither Prince Charming (voiced by Rupert Everett) nor the Queen (Julie Andrews) make any sort of impression. They’re both underwritten and blandly designed. Fairy Godmother (ABFAB’s Jennifer Saunders) and the King (the great John Cleese) are given more to do, and they fare much better as a result. Saunders in particular seems to relish her role, and when she sings her two big musical numbers, I’ll admit that I was shocked by how great her voice is. “Fairy Godmother Song,” her introduction, is a pretty canny send-up of all things Disney, right down to the singing and dancing furniture.

But the star of the film, and the one character who could supplant Donkey in terms of audience affection, is the diminuitive Puss In Boots, voiced with sly glee by Antonio Banderas. Dreamworks and PDI would do well to study the way crowds respond to Puss In Boots and apply those lessons to future films. A perfect marriage of design and performance, the character is appealing in every way, and he stopped the film cold several times during our screening by setting off deafening waves of laughter.

The mechanics of the plot hardly seem worth mentioning, but I do think the message of this film is less confused than the message of the first one. I know many people who were put off by the idea that Fiona had to remain “ugly” to be a fit match for Shrek, but I just saw it as a reversal of the classic Beauty and the Beast ending. I don’t think anyone really considered the implications of that ending when they made the first movie. This time, both Fiona and Shrek are given a chance to become beautiful, and the script by director Andrew Adamson, Joe Stillman, J. David Stern and David N. Weiss manages to make its points about acceptance and understanding with a fairly deft touch.

The film’s final act is the best part, frantic and flat-out hilarious at times, and it makes great use of some of the supporting characters from the first film. Pinocchio, the Gingerbread Man, the Three Blind Mice, the cross-dressing Wolf... they all get their moments to shine, and some of the humor is raunchier than I would have expected. The most adult jokes are subtle, though, so parents shouldn’t have to worry about explaining too much. Also, make sure you stay through the closing credits, or you’ll miss some of the funniest stuff in the movie.

I’d like to compliment PDI for creating a better-looking film this time out. It’s hard to compete with the consistent eye candy of Pixar’s movies, and PDI’s efforts so far have been hit or miss. This film manages to be quite lovely at times, with a richer palette and a greater organic quality than in the first film. Also, thank God, there’s no beastly Smash Mouth to deal with on the soundtrack. Actually, I’m surprised by some of the choices here. Any family film that uses Frou Frou, Tom Waits, The Eels, Pete Yorn, Nick Cave, and Bowie’s “Changes” so well can be forgiven the horror of “La Vida Loca.”

Overall, I think Andrew Adamson’s proven himself now as the director of frantic comedy, but he’s going to have to raise his game if he wants to make THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE into the classic it deserves to be. For now, I’m still not sure he can manage heart and soul as well as he can the funny bone.

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 17, 2004, 7:22 a.m. CST

    Shrek was way better than all the recent Disney efforts

    by sharpywesley

    Disney seem to stick to the same formula every year but apply it to a different theme eg. bugs, monsters, fish etc. Hopefully this will change now Pixar have split from the house of mouse.

  • May 17, 2004, 7:41 a.m. CST

    Adamson directing LWW

    by Amy's Flat Rat

    I'm a bit worried about him directing Lion, Witch, Wardrobe. He has'nt done a live action movie before just the two Shreks, but I like his casting so far(Tilda Swinton=White Witch & James McEvoy=Mr. Tumnus)fingers croseed it wont turn out like that recent Peter Pan movie(Hook flying!)

  • May 17, 2004, 7:48 a.m. CST

    Story, Story. Story.

    by filker-tom

    The biggest problem that I have with most animated projects these days -- even the ones I love -- is the bludgeoning we all get with variations of the message "Be Yourself". Even the best of them -- Ariel tries to be human, Aladdin tries to be a prince, The Beast has to prove he's not really a beast. Brother Bear, Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet, The Emperor's New Groove, Hunchback & HB2, Peter Pan 2, Cinderella 2 (okay, those last three were cheap shots)... Shrek. All more about acceptance, getting along, finding the Nice Person inside, than actually telling a story. Memo to Hollywood: WE GOT IT, OKAY!? Howzabout WRITING something for a change? Jeez! Disney closed its frickin' line animation studio in Florida, effectively blaming the medium for the message. It isn't that 3D animation is intrinsically superior to 2D -- it isn't even that the Pixar films have pretty much the SAME message as the other films -- it's that the people at Pixar WROTE interesting stories with great characters, convoluted plots, great surprises, and just the right number of cultural references. Disney used to be able to do this; The Little Mermaid, Beauty & The Beast, and Aladdin rejuvenated Disney for exactly those reasons, finally breaking away from the "Oliver & Co." mentality. But they've sunk back into the quagmire, and it's gonna take something titanic to drag 'em out.

  • May 17, 2004, 8:03 a.m. CST

    So... it seems that this one is not as dull, empty and generally

    by SalvatoreGravano

    Even so, it does not necessarily mean that it's actually good...

  • May 17, 2004, 8:21 a.m. CST


    by 28daysearlier

    I'm with Harry on the recent Peter Pan movie. It was one of the most charming and engaging films i saw last year and my partner and daughter loved it as well. Everybody came out of the theater with a smile on their face. I'm also glad that someone is willing to 'big up' Antonio. He has a real talent for comedy and he has been in some of my most enjoyable movies. Can't wait for Shrek 2!

  • May 18, 2004, 3:29 a.m. CST

    my interest in this film is flat

    by kingkang

    it'll probably get great reviews and everything but I just can't get myself interested in it. Well, whatever.

  • May 18, 2004, 4:30 a.m. CST


    by Magnus_Steele

    This has got to be one of the most overated pieces of shit I've ever seen. And to think Monsters Inc lost out at the Academy's for this crap... Crap CG, crap Dialogue, Crap gags, equals a crap fucking film. I hope $hrek 2 tanks at the Box Office and all the little kiddies run out of the theatres crying their shitty little faces off. I'm just waiting for that moment where Shrek pulls down his pants and violates that fucking Donkey.

  • May 18, 2004, 6:13 a.m. CST

    So Nice They Made It Twice?

    by Luvs269er

    Unlike a bunch of people here, I liked SHREK-- but I also agree that I don't remember hardly anything from the first film (except when they ripped into the ridiculously huge Disney parking lots and long attraction lines). However, I dare anyone who watched MONSTERS INC. to forget Boo attempting to pronounce Mike's full name ("Mike Kakowski" being my favorite version). But I have to admit I almost did I spit take when I heard Antonio Banderas announce himself as "Puss... in Boots!" on the SHREK 2 trailer... So maybe Dreamworks has finally fashioned a character as memorable as Pixar's Boo.

  • May 18, 2004, 6:41 a.m. CST

    by d_Wez in da Haus

    "I know many people who were put off by the idea that Fiona had to remain

  • May 19, 2004, 7:05 p.m. CST

    Emperors New Groove

    by Vizzini

    King of the recent comedy animations.

  • May 19, 2004, 8:23 p.m. CST

    Saw this today....SUCKY

    by Rupee88

    This movie was so CONTRIVED and CALCULATED. It had a few clever touches, but for the most part, it was by-the-numbers. Low IQ people and teenagers will enjoy it, but anyone with a brain who is over 30 will be bored and see right through all the calculation...I kind of expected this, but I had a popcorn craving, so I suffered through it.

  • May 20, 2004, 9:26 a.m. CST

    Why do people get so pissy over the first one? It's not Shakesp

    by minderbinder

    Is it really so awful that it merely aspires to being "fun"? (and succeeds)

  • May 20, 2004, 9:47 a.m. CST

    A Fun Family night out

    by archimago

    Did you really expect it to change your lives? It was a good night out for my family. We all laughed, shared popcorn, and my 4 year old sat still for the whole thing. I call that a good movie. But then again... maybe I have different standards.

  • May 20, 2004, 7:23 p.m. CST

    Yes you do have diffferent standards...

    by Rupee88

    I don't really care if a 4 year old likes a movie that I'm thinking of seeing...I'm sure Parent Trap appeals to little kids too, but that doesn't mean that it is good for everyone. A film like Star Wars or E.T. appealed to all age groups from small children to the elderly. Shrek 2 only appeals to little kids, dumb teenagers, and twenty-something with stunted emotional and intellectual development. If you are in your 30s and like this film, I doubt your IQ is very far north of 100.

  • May 20, 2004, 9:14 p.m. CST

    Aww com off it!

    by caerlas

    Sometimes I wonder if some of you guys don't understand the meaning of the word "Popcorn flick." It's as if you think the only worthwhile movies are those heavy-handed weepers which come out of an arthouse theater, and end with a bitter-sweet resolution. Guys like you are why comedies rarely get recognized at awards ceremonies. Granted, I wouldn't nominate this for Best Picture. But this is by far the most entertaining film I've seen this year in terms of laughs. People who brought kids at the showing I attended didn't seem dissappointed with their kids reactions either. If you aren't the type that appreciates movies designed to be appreciated by parents and kids then perhaps you should stop going to them. As for stupid cracks about IQ levels, grow up! Sometimes people don't want to think when they're in the mood for pure id-stimulating entertainment. I loved Shrek 2. It was clever in parts. I felt they did an excellent job of using farcical elements in conjunction with plot to drive an extremely entertaining film. I will be seeing this film again.

  • May 21, 2004, 8:28 a.m. CST

    Saw it last night, got off to a slow start but the ending was fu

    by minderbinder

    Probably too late, but definitely a movie that's better if you've avoided spoilers (and trailers for that matter).

  • May 22, 2004, 4:42 a.m. CST

    Whatever Rupee...

    by FunnyManJake

    'Cause "E.T." and "Star Wars" are in the same category as "Shrek." ya fuckin' moron. Get off your pretentious intellectual high horse and remember what it was like to enjoy life. Ass.

  • May 23, 2004, 5:25 p.m. CST

    money money money

    by fokke

    I just looked on Yahoo box office and it looks like Shrek 2 is going to be the king of summer 2004. More than 125 million dollars in five days. Beat that Spider-Man. I live in Holland and I have to wait and see if it's any good, but I think it is going to be a lot of fun.

  • May 23, 2004, 6:10 p.m. CST

    wow, pixar has competition.

    by 81666

    104 million openening weekend. and not too syrupy sweet. rock on shrek.

  • June 9, 2004, 7:48 p.m. CST

    Oh God

    by RandomKrap

    This had to have been one of the dumbest movies ive seen lately. It had no story, and once again showed us that the writers had no clue what they were going to write about, so they just threw something together about how important the inside of a person is. HELL IVE NEVER HEARD THAT ONE BEFORE! I dont think they deserve money for this crap. It took them about a month to animate all this on a computer and now theyre making millions on a generic movie thats been overmarketed to death. If you want to have a good time at the theaters this summer, see anything but this.