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Shrek 2
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Dreamworks has cashed in on the "Shrek" franchise with a sequel that will enchant adults and children alike. Similar to the first film, "Shrek 2" spoofs fairy-tales, modern films and other pop culture tidbits. Though geared more to make money than create fresh entertainment, the creators do craft some clever visual puns and delightful dialogue.
Shrek (Mike Myers) and Fiona (Cameron Diaz) have returned from their honeymoon to discover an invitation to visit her parents at the mythical kingdom of Far, Far Away. Shrek fears her parents will not appreciate his special brand of green ogre-dom and attempts to sway her out of accepting. She wants to return home and begs him to join her. Donkey (Eddie Murphy) tags along, aggravating them the entire ride as only he can.

They reach Far, Far Away, only to be a massive disappointment to her parents, the King (John Cleese, "A Fish Called Wanda") and the Queen (Julie Andrews) and their royal subjects. The kingdom expected their fair princess to have had the curse lifted by Prince Charming and resent that she chose to remain ugly and to have married such a revolting monster.

Unbeknownst to all, The King is in cahoots with the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders, "Absolutely Fabulous"), a nasty witch who expected her son Prince Charming (Rupert Everett, "My Best Friend's Wedding") to break Fiona's curse and become the heir apparent to Far, Far Away. Blackmailed by the Fairy Godmother, The King hatches a plan to dispose of Shrek, freeing Fiona up for Charming. The King hires the notorious ogre-killer, Puss In Boots (Antonio Bandaras, "Evita") to slaughter Shrek. Can Shrek stay in one piece long enough to protect his beloved wife from the great looking but monstrous Charmings?

With a screenplay by veteran animation scriptwriters J. David Stem ("The Rugrats"), Joe Stillman ("Beavis and Butthead") and David N. Weiss ("Jimmy Neutron"), Shrek dices many of today iconography like the streets of Beverly Hills, roadside squeegee guys and Joan Rivers' pre-Oscar red carpet shpiel. Many of the movie reference will reach the adults ("Alien," "Cops," and "Spider-Man") while children will relish the Disney references, including "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast." The filmmakers may discover that the jokes will date quickly however. Many, especially the "Cops" reference, have been done to death, particularly by the "Simpsons."

The storyline itself seems hackneyed and merely a setup for the jokes. It reiterates the "believe in yourself" schmaltz from the first film, but with no new dimensions.
The animators have continued to blur the lines between animation and photography. The grass and the characters' hair all have the fluidity and the color of their live-action counterparts. Though everything is animated, it almost appears that some of the background is real.

The cast do a fine job but Saunders and Bandaras stand out. As the manipulative fairy, Saunders is as snitty as her character Edina Monsoon on "Ab Fab." Singing two tunes reminiscent of Disney songsters Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, she steals the show. Bandaras hysterically mocks his sexy Zorro persona as the swashbuckling cat.

"Shrek 2" is an animated sitcom with laughs but nothing memorable or groundbreaking. A month ago, I called "Ella Enchanted" a live-action Shrek. Complete with musical numbers, hilarity and a blistful romance, I would recommend the real thing, "Ella," instead. Grade: B-

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