The Shrek series is, it’s fair to say, DreamWorks’ most popular series of films, although I suppose it’s possible that Kung Fu Panda may yet overtake it, and Shrek 2 is the best of the bunch. Grossing over $1 billion worldwide, it’s certainly the most successful film of the franchise, and also marks the last time, at least until recent prequel Puss in Boots, that the series was any good. It’s not as quirky or original as the first film, but it’s bigger, funnier, and overall the better film.
Shrek 2 sees Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) returning from their honeymoon to discover that they have been invited to meet Fiona’s royal parents, a prospect Shrek is less than excited about, since, as ever, he just wants to live in peace in his swamp. Naturally, Donkey (Eddie Murphy) tags along. Meanwhile, we learn that Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) had intended to rescue Fiona from the castle in the first film, and is less than pleased to find out that she has married an ogre. The addition of all these new characters, also including John Cleese as Fiona’s father (complete with a reference to Monty Python) and Jennifer Saunders as the Fairy Godmother means the film has a broader scope. This gives Shrek 2 more opportunities for jokes than the first one, and, while the humour is broader, it’s no less entertaining.
Of the new characters, though, the standout is obviously Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots, who recently had the aforementioned prequel made about him. Channelling his earlier role as Zorro to great effect, Banderas makes Puss easily the funniest character in the film, using his formidable cuteness as a weapon against those who would stand against him. The three leads are more confident in their roles this time around, as is to be expected, but it’s the new characters who are the main appeal of the film.
While still as heavy on the pop culture gags as one would expect from a DreamWorks film, Shrek 2 still contains plenty of the skewering of the fairytale and Disney film tropes that made the first one so interesting, even if it doesn’t make quite as much use of it as its predecessor did. The Fairy Godmother in particular is a very fun parody of the character type, looking out for Prince Charming at the expense of everyone else, to the point that she convinces Fiona’s father to hire Puss to assassinate Shrek. The humour may not be as original as the first film, but the increased confidence with the material, and a significantly bigger budget, allow for a good deal more spectacle, and the film culminates with a fantastic set piece involving Shrek storming a castle with the aid of a Godzilla-sized Gingerbread Man.
Overall, Shrek 2 is probably the best animated film DreamWorks have produced.