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It's hard to explain. I don't like kiddie movies. I don't like animated movies. I didn't even like the original Shrek. I only gave it two bottles. But the sequel, with the imaginative title, Shrek 2, is so much better and funnier than the original that it made me a total convert. It didn't hurt that I went into the movie with rather low expectations, but this is a really good movie. Shrek 2 picks up where the original left off, with Shrek (Mike Myers) and the now ogre-ish Fiona (Cameron Diaz) living happily ever after on their honeymoon. The first inkling of trouble comes when they return home to find Donkey (Eddie Murphy) waiting for them. It seems that he and the Dragon were having some marital problems. Then, an invitation arrives from Fiona's parents (John Cleese & Julie Andrews), the King and Queen of the land of Far, Far Away. The land of Far Far Away is a take off on Hollywood, including a Far Far Away sign up on the hill overlooking the city. The royal parents want to throw a wedding party for the happy couple. Unfortunately, they are under the misapprehension that Fiona was rescued by Prince Charming (Rupert Everett). So they are a bit nonplussed when they meet Shrek and see that Fiona is now an ogre permanently. The King enlists the help of Prince Charming's mother, the fairy godmother (Jennifer Saunders) and Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas) to get rid of Shrek and replace him with Charming.
Not too much has been changed in Shrek 2. Two of the three original directors are back. Two of the four writers are the same. The animation is still pretty primitive compared to, say, Finding Nemo. But this is on purpose. They do make a big deal about being able to animate hair. This is necessitated by the presence of Prince Charming and Puss-In -Boots who both have really nice hair. I would comment on the performances but, of course, all of the talented actors in the cast are present only as voices. They are all good. But, Puss-In-Boots steals every scene that he is in. Listen for Larry King as the ugly stepsister and Joan Rivers as herself.
The main thing that separates Shrek 2 from Shrek is the script. It's really funny and entertaining. And more importantly, it's funny and entertaining for 93 minutes. The script is packed with references and jokes that only the adults will get, but there are enough farts and belches to keep the kids happy. The kids will miss all the references to things like Joan Rivers, From Here to Eternity and Flashdance. However, even the kids should pick up on the references to Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man and Mission Impossible. Pinocchio as Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible has to be seen. They even have Gingerbread man do a riff on the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man from Ghostbusters. I credit the two new screenwriters with the amazing transformation of Shrek 2. They are David N. Weiss and J. David Stem who, weirdly, both started out working on the Cybill and Rugrats TV series.
The show I went to which was Sunday evening was packed to rafters and I had a hard time finding a seat. Apparently, it was like that everywhere since Shrek 2 made more than $100 million this weekend at the box office. By the way, don't leave right away at the end. There's a final scene partway into the credits and all the kids had to come running back in to see it. Shrek 2 may very well be on my best movies of the year list, so you better go see it. Besides, it's hard not to like a movie that thought to have Captain Hook as Nick Cave playing the piano in the local pub.