The movie, almost certainly, owes its best moments to the comic talents of its voice actors, who generally acquit themselves well and are often genuinely funny. Myers, using a faux Scottish accent throughout, makes the crude, irascible Shrek into a likeable, good-hearted person for whom the viewer is able to feel sympathy. John Cleese is a delight as Fiona's worrisome, conniving father, and Larry King is disturbingly funny as Cinderella's ugly stepsister, who has been relegated to tending bar in a shady dive in order to pay the bills. Eddie Murphy is occasionally irritating as Shrek's sidekick Donkey, but even he manages to be entertaining. While none of the performances are truly impressive, they do enliven the movie and add to its appeal.
Such virtues are, however, counterbalanced by the film's weaknesses. Of these, the most consistently grating is probably the directors' addiction to making incessant references to various items of American pop-culture. Because these allusions are generally uninspired, clumsy, and forgettable, and each follows the last almost without interruption, they soon pass beyond boring and actually begin to get annoying. The directors, for example, include in the movie an imaginary television show called Knights that, imitating the lurid exploitation program Cops, portrays medieval knights in armor chasing and capturing a suspected criminal, who, incidentally, just happens to be Shrek. Subsequently, the ogre is depicted being freed from prison by his friends in a sequence mimicking one from Mission Impossible II. At other points in the movie, the film makers present the Fairy Godmother running her vast magical empire like a Mafia don and show the guests arriving at a royal ball being held to celebrate Fiona's marriage walking down a red carpet like celebrities attending the Academy Awards while an animated Joan Rivers (Joan Rivers) makes comments about them. Even the affluent capital of the kingdom of Far Far Away is made to bear a remarkable resemblance to Beverly Hills, complete with palm trees, Starbucks-like coffee shops, drive through eateries, and carriages like stretch limousines. How clever. The list goes on and on and on.
Finally, I should note that the film's computer generated animation is technically impressive, but it is also consistently uninspired and uninteresting. The movie is, consequently, more of a novelty than a work of art. Unfortunately, given the number of films that are virtually identical to it visually, Shrek 2 is not even much of a novelty.
While never particularly clever or funny, Shrek 2 is a reasonably enjoyable movie.
Review by Keith Allen
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