‘Shrek’ proves worthy of repeated viewings

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 21, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

When it comes to making movie sequels, there’s basically two ways to go about the job. First, you can rewrite the original story with a few oh-so-minor changes. Or you can go the other way, create a whole new epic and hope that lightning will strike twice.

Almost invariably, filmmakers take Option A. First, it shows that they’re smart enough not to fix what isn’t broken. Second, it’s much easier and requires far less thought and creativity. Third, it’s proven much more effective than its counterpart. That why the first four &uot;Rocky&uot; films tore it up and right back down again, and why &uot;Rocky V&uot; fell flat on its face. It’s why the first two &uot;Godfather&uot; films won Best Picture Academy Awards and why the third one isn’t even spoken of in hushed tones.

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As we delve into the second coming of &uot;Shrek,&uot; it appears that the screenwriters are going the gutsy (albeit not entirely intelligent) way of doing things. The green ogre (Mike Myers) and his ogress Fiona (Cameron Diaz) are happily married (except in those common occurrences when they’re being annoyed by the Ritalin-needy Donkey, again voiced by Eddie Murphy, who’s without the dragon he stole the heart of in the first movie. A letter comes from Fiona’s parents in the faraway kingdom of Far Far Away, inviting her and her hubby to come and visit them. Keep in mind that the old folks haven’t seen her since graduation to ogre-ship.

The trio head to town and, of course, Fiona’s pappy’s not happy with his son-in-law, spewing the old garbage about knowing one’s place in a betrothed wedding. There’s all sorts of underlying messages about bigotry and class system flowing here. We find out that he’d made a secret deal with the local evil fairy godmother (whoever thought that one up had more nerve than the Brothers Grimm), and promised his little lady to her Prince Charming son. Eventually, Shrek decides that the only way to win over his father-in-law and make his bride happy is to become a &uot;true&uot; prince himself, and he and Donkey set off for the fairy godmother’s castle (they don’t know she’s playing both sides of the equation) for a potion.

We’re about a third of the way into the film, and viewers haven’t had much to laugh about. Perhaps this won’t be the wild comedy that we saw the first time around. Maybe they’re trying something new – and it doesn’t seem to be working.

Oh, were we so glad to be mistaken. This is the part where we jump back to the machine-gun humor that zoomed us through the opener. The accelerator is on the floor and we’re off and running like a cheetah with attention-deficit disorder.

We meet the famed ogre-killer Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas, who’s never been afraid to let the kid inside him out to play), who becomes a new ally (Donkey gets in the line of the year at this point). They reach the castle, only to be blown off by the flying crone (Jennifer Saunders). Puss tries to climb to the top of the castle to get the proper potion, only to collapse an entire shelf and force the team into a battle royal with the castle workers in order to escape. That ’70s song from Sweet, &uot;Ballroom Blitz,&uot; would have been perfect here.

It’s on. It’s so on. Shrek takes the potion (which has some unusual side effects) they head back to the castle to rescue Fiona from Charming (look for Joan Rivers in a cameo and a send-up of &uot;Cops&uot; that is one of the best animation scenes ever created), and maybe, just maybe, the fairy godmother will get hers.&uot; In the end, the King understands what Shrek himself learned in the first flick – sometimes love’s the most important thing of all.

That’s truly what makes this film memorable, and makes the early unfunniness necessary. This &uot;Shrek&uot; is hilarious in much the same way as the original. But there’s more to it than that. There’s a storyline. There’s a heart. There’s new reasons to care about the characters we’re watching.

Does that mean that &uot;Shrek 2&uot; is better than its predecessor? Probably not. But it does mean that this film is worth seeing – again and again and again.

Jason Norman is the sports editor for the Suffolk News-Herald. He can also be contacted at 934-9614.