Worth the Wait: The Return of the Grinning Ogre Can't Fail to Make You Smile
Sawyer, Miranda, New Statesman (1996)
Shrek 2 (PG)
Oh, I've been looking forward to this film for weeks now--156 weeks, actually, which is how long it's been since the original came out. The story of a green ogre's search for love, Shrek was a multimillion-dollar success, a perfectly judged animation comedy that wiped the floor with both live and cartoon competition. It took $42.3m in the US on its opening weekend alone. Why? Well, it's the kind of film that Hollywood makes really, really well: a slick, funny, fairy tale for all the family. Its message is politically correct, its visuals are sophisticated, its characters are likeable and strong, and, most importantly, it's laugh-out-loud hilarious. If you can sit through Shrek without smiling, you really need to check your Seroxat levels. The film's humour tickles everyone, from tots to totterers, ranging from fart jokes, through in-the-know film references and clever word-play, to dark wit and top-of-the-range comedy performances, notably Mike Myers as Shrek and scene-stealer Eddie Murphy as his sidekick Donkey.
The British love to say that the Yanks can't do humour or irony (whereas we display one, at least, in calling Jim Davidson a comic) when in fact they do both, brilliantly. Their humorous, ironic animation is the best in the world. Look at The Simpsons. Look at Dumbo, for Walt's sake. However, the animation of the Shrek films is more Grand Theft Auto than Fantasia, which adults may find creepy, especially the blank faces of the humans. Still, there's no denying the appeal of Shrek himself: a lumbering, goofy-grinned green grump, with charm and wavering Scottish accent provided by Myers. Donkey, his motor-mouthed friend, is even better--Eddie Murphy giving the performance we've missed for years from his on-screen acting. Princess Fiona, played by Cameron Diaz, is less appealing: Diaz doesn't have the comic range of Myers and Murphy, though she's spirited enough.
Perhaps to placate us (yes, you Brits are funny), Shrek 2 employs several UK actors to play its new characters: John Cleese, Julie Andrews, Rupert Everett and Jennifer Saunders--who, as the Fairy Godmother, displays perfect pitch in both her acting and singing. The other fresh character, Puss In Boots, is voiced by Antonio Banderas. As far as I'm concerned, Banderas is a talisman actor: any film with him is guaranteed to be terrible. …