Shrek 2 (2004)

Starring: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Jennifer Saunders, Rupert Everett

Directed by: Andrew Adamson

Rating: 1 2 3 4

Shrek (Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz)

Ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with? This is the question posed here, as Princess Fiona faces life married to an ogre. Ah, it can only be Shrek 2.

I was really looking forward to seeing this film but I was also slightly apprehensive. The first Shrek outing was a masterpiece: funny, irreverent, delightful for children and adults alike without relying too heavily on patronising in-jokes about sex and, of course, superbly animated. Would the sequel live up to these high standards? Or would it fall prey to the Men In Black II syndrome: give them more of the bits they liked best. and plot? Who needs it?

Actually, that's another potential problem: the plot. Like any fairy tale romance (however comic and postmodern it might be) Shrek ends Happily Ever After. Well, ever after's now arrived, so where do they go from here? The path to true love may not run smooth, but as any married couple knows, it doesn't necessarily get any less bumpy just because you're wed. And when the grumpy 'Scotch' ogre and his blushing bride are summoned back to her parents' kingdom, you know they're in for a rough ride.

Eddie Murphy is the voice of  Donkey

Accompanied by the obligatory 'annoying talking animal' Donkey (I've a feeling admitting to liking Donkey is somewhat akin to admitting to liking Jah Jah Binks, but hey, I like him - I think he's really funny!), the pair embark on the long long journey to Far Far Away. Needless to say, Mum and Dad (and the rest of the beautiful nipped and tucked population of Far Far Away - for which read Beverley Hills) are somewhat horrified when they witness their daughter's big green makeover - and even bigger, greener spouse. And as for Fiona's Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders, taking her cue from the late great Marlon Brando's Don Corleone, with only a bit of Ab Fab's Edina thrown in for good measure) well, she's not happy at all.

Yup, the path of true married love is littered with plots and potions, magic and mayhem and, of course, more talking animals. Will the big green swamp dwellers rise above it all? I'll give you one guess.

Antonio Banderas steals the show as Puss In Boots

New film, new characters, and the best addition to the cast by far is Antonio Banderas as Puss In Boots, a svelte Garfield with the panache of Zorro and the huge cute eyes of Bambi. Striding uncomfortably in his trademark thigh boots, spitting Spanish expletives (probably) he totally steals the show - and he's up against some stiff competition, what with the likes of John Cleese as the King (Basil Fawlty with a crown), Julie Andrews (who else?) as the charming Queen, and Rupert Everett as a Prince Charming so effete and vain it's to be hoped he believes that ridicule is nothing to be scared of.

All the comedy stops have been pulled out full throttle in Shrek 2, but this time it's not just Disney who are ruthlessly lampooned but the whole Hollywood movie scene. From Pretty Woman to The Fabulous Baker Boys, Lord of the Rings to The Godfather, nothing is sacred, and film buffs will have great fun spotting all the allusions. (Yes, I know, I slagged off Van Helsing for doing the exact same thing - but this is parody, Van Helsing was just lazy plagiarism - okay?) Occasionally it does get a bit silly (you have to wonder about the person who decided that Pinocchio should wear a thong) but on the whole it's just very, very funny.

The whole film is buoyed up by a smashing feelgood soundtrack featuring covers of all sorts from David Bowie's 'Changes' to The Buzzcocks' 'Ever Fallen In Love With Someone' to a show stopping rendition of Bonnie Tyler's 'Holding Out For A Hero' as Shrek storms the palace on the shoulders of a giant gingerbread man called Mungo. Told you it got a bit silly at times.

And as for the animation - well, it's absolutely breathtaking. A lot of the time it's so sophisticated that you actually forget you're watching a computer generated cartoon and think it must be real - check out the scene when it rains to see what I mean. Awesome.

Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother go for a ride

And hey, it even has a nice moral: beauty is only skin deep, it's the person inside that really counts. Hardly earth shattering, but not a bad thing to remember in these harsh days of Botox and bulimia.

Inventive, ingenious, inspired and in ya face, Shrek 2 is well worth braving the cinema on a wet summer Sunday afternoon. You'll laugh, you'll cry (perhaps, if you're, like, quite soft), you'll gasp... but mostly you'll just laugh.

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