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Shrek finds out that they used his likeness in last
summer's Hulk.

Shrek 2
Review written by: Alex Sandell

Editor's Note:  Shrek 2 is begging for criticism regarding its voluminous merchandising.  Walk down any aisle at any store this summer and you'll find an item with Shrek placed on the cover.  The advertising for Shrek 2 has been in concert with advertising for any number of corporate products (Dial's "you're not as clean as you think" ad approaches reprehensible).  These ads incorporate the original actor's voices and the beloved characters from the movie.  It's going to be hard for children to differentiate between the movie and its numerous corporate sponsors.  Also, it cheapens the actual film.  Lastly, it doesn't stop when the movie starts:  Shrek 2 has found a way to incorporate (no pun intended) actual product placements in an animated fairy tale.  It's akin to Snow White refusing to go to the ball before she feels as fresh as a Princess "everywhere" by using Massengill Disposable Douche.  A line has been crossed with Shrek 2 and it should cause the socially aware to think twice about buying a ticket to the film.  If you don't like the thought of animated movies plastered in product placements (prior to Shrek 2, animation was the last safe haven for those of us sickened by corporate advertisements in film), give thought to purchasing a ticket to another film; even if you plan on attending Shrek 2.  Don't let the Hollywood elite (Steven Spielberg has apparently sold his soul to big business.  Everything he's involved with looks like a dirty highway lined with corporate billboards.  I counted at least ten product placements in the trailer for his next film, The Terminal, alone.) think they can get away with this sick violation of the family film.  Send a message loud and clear -- "we're raising our kids just fine and we don't need Hollywood telling us what junk food we need to buy them."  At the very least, they could have put Shrek's face on healthy food and drink like apples, carrots and juice, rather than on candy, Doritos and Pepsi.  Now, onto the review...

Not more than a minute into Shrek 2 and I was already starting to squirm.  After early "summer" 2004 disasters such as Van Helsing and Troy, I was expecting the worst, and it looked as though Shrek 2 was going to be more than happy to live up to my expectations. 

The movie begins with a barrage of "hip" jokes meant to immediately out-Shrek Shrek.  In their attempt to start the film off on the right foot, the writers nearly abandon the audience before the opening song comes to a close.  By the time the little ditty was over and Shrek (Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) returned home from their honeymoon, I was nearly ready to storm out of the theater, give up on movies, shave my head and join a monastery. 

Luckily for the monks, the movie gets better. 

Shrek 2 is a variation on the original, with a few extra fart jokes, one extra sidekick, an evil fairy godmother and the voice of John Cleese.  If anything featuring John Cleese sends you into a frothy epileptic fit of happiness (and really, why wouldn't it?), this movie is tailor-made for you.  If you enjoyed the first, you're going to have a good time with the second.  Shrek 2 doesn't take many chances, but manages to be a lot of fun while playing it safe.

Although the "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink" opening would have you believing otherwise, Shrek 2 is a more mellow film than its freewheeling predecessor.  Not even the fifth or sixth fart joke could prevent the sequel from feeling slightly more grown-up than the first.  Rather than saving princesses and fighting dragons, we have domestic disputes and in-laws. 

When Shrek, Fiona and, for no apparent reason, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) travel to Far Far Away and meet Fiona's judgmental father, King Harold (John Cleese), Shrek begins doubting his wife could truly love an Ogre.  Fiona begins sobbing over her husband and father's issues and meets the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders), who promises to find her the right man.  Fairy Godmother isn't happy when she sees that Fiona's already found the right man... and he's an ogre.

It turns out that Fairy Godmother's son is Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) and King Harold made a pact with Godmother to let Charming be the one to marry Fiona.  King Harold has his own reasons for keeping his end of the bargain, and hires an assassin to kill Shrek.  Thinking he's meeting King Harold to go hunting, Shrek, along with, for no apparent reason, Donkey, walks out into the woods and winds up face to face with Harold's hired hitman... Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas).  The hilarious cat worth a hundred laughs proves to be no match for the ogre and, much to Donkey's chagrin, joins Shrek and Donkey.  The threesome form a team and many adventures ensue. 

The humor in this film is going to have family values groups up in arms.  The sexual innuendo from the first film turns nearly sexual in the second.  When Shrek, through drinking a potion, turns into a big hunk of a man, three hot looking females fall all over themselves to be with the ex-ogre.  Two begin massaging Shrek on his shoulders and back and one comments that she doesn't have anywhere to rub.  By that point, I wouldn't have been surprised if the film would have introduced the 4th grade set to group sex.  Maybe they're saving that for Shrek 3.

If you think Tinky Winky's rumored homosexuality caused the religious right to get their undies in a bunch, wait until Shrek 2 reveals to the world that Pinocchio likes to wear women's underwear... preferably a pink thong.  How will the zealots ever explain away the fact that the ugly stepsister is Larry King?  How will they rationalize the "gender confused" wolf reading Pork Illustrated, with a bikini-clad pig on the cover?  And what will they say about a potion made with a "pinch of passion" and "hint of lust?"  The devious side of me is smiling just thinking about it.  These are the people that demanded Disney release a new cover for The Little Mermaid video because one of the underwater towers on the cover was vaguely shaped like a penis (if you drank a pint of moonshine and squinted your eyes just right).

For the rest of us, Shrek 2 is an enjoyable second outing for the ogre and his pals.  While none of the gags match the best found in the first, the movie miraculously manages to, once again, get across an enduring message of unconditional and unconventional love.  Maybe the plot is too close to the one found in the original Shrek.  Maybe nothing really is earth-shaking about what's put onscreen.  Maybe there are a disturbing amount of product-placements shoved into an animated movie.  But, for 90 minutes you can kick back and have a good time at the movies and maybe that should be enough.

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