Today I braved the local multiplex, crammed with small children and their parents, to see the Shrek sequel. The theater I went to was running three cycles of Shrek 2, about a half hour apart, and all of them were selling out, so I won't be surprised if this movie breaks some weekend records.
I'm not sure what the attraction of Shrek is for me personally, except, of course, its basic core of snorting at sentimentality. One could say that it is an anti-fairy tale, but at the same time a fairy tale is exactly what it is.
It makes me suspect that--all this time I thought I was one of the minority of cynical thinkers willing to take a hard look at the reality behind the illusions of love--actually lots of people see what I see. They're just a lot more well adjusted about it, willing to enjoy the advantages of the illusions without being completely suckered into them.
Anyway, I enjoyed Shrek 2 almost as much as the original. A certain amount of surprise was gone, replaced by a sense of expectation. When you get down to analyzing it, the basic plot is quite simple: Princess Fiona drags Shrek home to meet the folks, Shrek and king don't exactly hit it off, tension ensues between the newlyweds, and they both try to make the other happy by sacrificing their own happiness. As with the original, the devil (or in this case the angel) is in the details. I don't want to mention any because it would spoil the surprise, but there are a lot of them and you really have to pay attention to get them all. I had the rare experience of wanting to turn around and watch the movie all over again.
Not being married and not having manipulative parents, I didn't have a strong sense of connection to the couple's problems in this movie (didn't really in the first one either, being neither a prince/princess nor in love with one, although have to say I did identify with Shrek, so draw your own conclusions). There were more main characters in this one, and I didn't really care much about most of them, so I didn't have quite the visceral reaction to this one that I did with the first. I've read reviews that say Puss in Boots stole the movie, but I'd say that's only because--Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey aside--all the others were either too bland or too predictable. Once again, its the minor characters--the ugly step sister, the gingerbread boy, Pinnochio, that really make things shine.
In the first movie, I think I was bowled over by the music more than anything else. Seguing from Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" to "I'm On My Way From Misery to Happiness" was grand, and it brought me to one of my now favorite songs: John Cale's "Hallelujah". And of course who could forget Fiona singing the opening lines of "Like a Virgin"?
The music in this movie is somewhat less inspired, although it could be it needs some growing time. One of the main musical scenes features the song "I Need A Hero", which some people will remember from the movie Footloose. Although I thought it was a great song to use, I was quite disappointed in its presentation. I didn't much like the singer, it was too weak and made me pine for the original Bonnie Tyler rendition. Aside from a little snippet of Hawaii Five-O, I don't remember any of the other music, which is too bad. I can go for days with "Stay Home" or "All-Star" happily ringing in my head.
Aside from the nitpicks, though, I found Shrek 2 utterly satisfying, and can't wait to drag some friends so I can see it again.
Oh--be sure to stay in your seat while the credits roll!