What a merry ride!

- Baby A. Gil -
The first Shrek movie gleefully tore apart all those fairy stories we grew up with. While ogres are traditionally the big, bad villains, Shrek here is an ogre, albeit a kindly, lovable one. There are also no cute animal friends around to keep this loner company. What he got instead was a wisecracking donkey, who cannot keep his mouth shut. There is a princess held captive in the tower by a dragon. She can be freed by a prince, who must slay the dragon and then give her true love’s kiss. But she is no Rapunzel. Princess Fiona turns into an ogress at sundown and that kiss is expected to break the spell. As most of you know by now, the prince did not make it on time and the princess was saved by Shrek, who gave her a kiss and turned her permanently into an ogress.

Shrek was different from all the animated films we had been watching. It was also lots of fun and immensely entertaining in a way that surprisingly also delighted the kiddies. In fact, the movie was not only a success at the box-office, it also became the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Film in 2001. Shrek 2 picks up where it left off and Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy are back as the voices of Shrek, Fiona and Donkey. As in all sequels, originality is not anymore an option, but it has many other things to offer. For one, it presents even bigger problems for the bumbling hero. The honeymoon was fine but the meeting with the in-laws, the king and queen of Far Far Away, is simply dreadful and Shrek is now in more danger than before. The king wants to have him killed, a fairy godmother wants to get rid of him so her son Prince Charming can marry Fiona, who in turn, is beginning to have second thoughts about being married to an ogre.

Told with a witty script and lavishly designed visuals Shrek 2 is even more entertaining than the first and reaches a wider range of movie-goers. There is a message that is positive enough to put parents’ concerns to rest. It is be your- self. You are loved for what you are. Kids will enjoy watching their favorite storybook characters like Pinocchio, the three blind mice, the three little pigs, the gingerbread boy and the big, bad wolf as daring action heroes. Teen-agers will love the pop music soundtrack and the clever dialogue. As for the adults, they cannot help but admire the creativity that went into making the film, the improved animation, precise editing and brilliant writing, all designed to bring on the laughs or at the very least, induce smiles after you come out of the theater.

Adding to the merry ride is the fact that Shrek 2 is also a pointed stab at the inanities of celebrity life set in a place that looks very much like Hollywood. Fiona is being enticed to become a trendsetting wife. Beauty comes out of a bottled magic potion. Birthday parties are red carpet events with somebody who looks and sounds like Joan Rivers doing the coverage. And there is no end to the number of famous scenes from old movies popping up one after the other. Keep your eyes open throughout or you might miss E.T., From Here to Eternity, Splash, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, etc., etc.

The fairy tale bashing continues and is wilder then ever. The ugly stepsister is a bartender at the Poison Apple with the voice of Larry King. Prince Charming is good only for shampoo commercials. The fairy godmother is more like the wicked witch. The king turns back into a frog. Puss in Boots is now a swashbuckling hitman who has Zorro written all over him. There are several new characters introduced in the movie. The king (John Cleese), the queen (Julie Andrews), Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) and the fairy godmother (Jennifer Saunders), who all do remarkable jobs. But the one who steals the show is Puss with eyes that will melt the hardest heart and who has the voice of Antonio Banderas.

Puss in Boots, with his almost life-like animation, is the most delightful discovery in Shrek 2. Anxious to get his daughter away from their ogre son-in-law, the king hires Puss to do away with Shrek. The cat’s efforts to kill Shrek and later to constantly put one over the obnoxious Donkey provide most of the laughs in the picture. Donkey is funny, loud and irritating. Puss is funny, suave and sly. Pitted against each other, they are dynamite. Get a load of that finale number where they duet Ricky Martin’s Living La Vida Loca.

I will not be surprised if an animated feature about Puss in Boots is now in the works. The adventures of this sassy feline with the seven-league boots have never really been fully exploited on the screen. Now that the ideal actor – or I should say voice – has been found though, I do not see any reason why producers will not be trying to beat each other in the race for the first Puss in Boots movie featuring Antonio Banderas, of course.

Maybe Donkey can make it a buddy flick and double the fun. But then, that might pose a problem to Shrek 3. I am sure the producers would want Donkey and Puss back in that one. Just think: Shrek and Fiona as parents of little green ogres playing around with Donkey’s mixed dragon brood and perhaps Puss’ equally scheming litter.

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