The year 2004 brought a mixed bag of animated films, with everything from Pixar’s The Incredibles to Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Home on the Range to Studio Ghibli’s Howl’s Moving Castle. And what did 2004 bring for DreamWorks Animation? The debut of its very first sequel, Shrek 2.
Shrek 2 starts out pretty much right where the first Shrek movie left off, picking up the story after Shrek and Fiona’s wedding. Shortly after they return from their honeymoon, Shrek (Mike Myers), Fiona (Cameron Diaz), and their friend Donkey (Eddie Murphy) receive an invitation to travel to the land of Far Far Away to visit the king and queen, Fiona’s parents (Julie Andrews and John Cleese). They run into trouble, however, when they learn that Fiona’s father has no intention of accepting an ogre as his son-in-law.
The king turns to Fiona’s nefarious fairy godmother (Jennifer Saunders), who likewise wants to get Shrek out of the picture, so her narcissistic son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), can marry Fiona instead. Shrek and Donkey soon realize Fiona’s father’s dislike of them is far more serious than it seems when they find out he has hired a rapier-wielding hit man, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to take care of them.
After teaming up with Puss in Boots, the trio runs into even more trouble when a “Happily Ever After” potion transforms Shrek and Donkey’s appearances. As Shrek deals with his own insecurities about not being good enough for Fiona, he’s forced to try and set things right before the Fairy Godmother can trick Fiona into falling in love with Prince Charming instead!
While the Shrek franchise has started to feel a little like it’s run its course, with sequel after sequel being released, there are a lot of things to love about Shrek 2. Even though Shrek 2 is heavily satirical and sometimes pretty ridiculous, its still able to maintain an intellectual and emotional storyline. The film’s success at telling an emotional story is something that sets it apart from other animated comedies. Both the first and second Shrek movies deal heavily with the theme of self-doubt and show characters faced with the pressure to conform to social norms of behavior and physical appearance. And both films succeed at getting the viewer to care about the emotional struggles the characters face.
Although some reviewers believe the comedy in Shrek 2 just isn’t able to capture the feel of the original movie, I think Shrek 2 succeeds in delivering the same fun, satirical humor the franchise is known for. For example, I love the city of Far Far Away. Everything from the “Far Far Away” Hollywood sign to the “Farbucks” coffee shops on every corner to the “Knights” Cops rip off where Puss in Boots gets arrested made me laugh when I first saw this movie thirteen years ago and still makes me laugh to this day.
Another area where I feel Shrek 2 really succeeds where many sequels fall short is in the introduction of new characters to the series. Puss in Boots, Fairy Godmother, and Prince Charming all have important roles to play in the story. Each character feels well developed and easily falls into place among the cast of characters from the first movie.
Overall, where many animated sequels fall short, Shrek 2 succeeds. While most animation fans cringe at the word “sequel”, it’s worth keeping in mind that while Shrek 2 might seem like an ugly ogre on the outside, on the inside (past alllll those onion layers) it’s a lovable, funny film with a great message.