I like ugly things. There exists an underlying beauty in all things repulsive, a magnetic force tapping into an unconscious wasteland of perversion, a force that explains why humans like to smell their farts and pick their scabs. This phenomenon finds a sympathetic companion in “Shrek 2,” an extremely worthwhile sequel, enjoyable for everybody but especially tasty for us disenchanted, postmodern ogrefolk who tend to hate everything.
“Shrek 2,” directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon, beautifully realizes the hypocrisy and absurdity of the fairytale/real world by subverting our romanticized memories of fairytale characters. The film helps us recognize that Sleeping Beauty is really just a narcoleptic bimbo, Prince Charming likes sparkling strawberry lip gloss and even our innocent little wooden friend Pinocchio may have a fetish for female undergarments (things we suspected all along yet were never bold enough to voice).
Newlyweds Shrek (Mike Myers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) discover early on that married life falls short of “happily ever after.” They argue like normal couples about normal couple issues: feelings of inadequacy, resentment for in-laws. These are fairytale characters with significant emotional baggage, and we love them more because of it. We hypothesized in “Shrek” that Donkey (Eddie Murphy)’s annoying, relentless chatter stemmed from a deeply rooted existential insecurity, and in “Shrek 2,” Donkey confirms such a hypothesis with a brief recollection of an ill fated game of pin the tail on the donkey. Such a pathos succeeds in making the animated characters of the “Shrek” films more human than the characters of most live action films.
Plenty of new characters are introduced and welcomed into the “Shrek” cast of animated screw-ups; from the bumbling, British King Harold (voiced by the bumbling, British John Cleese) to brutish bartender of The Poison Apple, aka Ugly Step Sister (voiced by CNN’s Larry King). However, only the Antonio Banderas-voiced Puss in Boots manages to steal every scene by accentuating everything we love about cats (the only animals to prove that licking yourself can be cool). His Zorro-meets-Garfield purr, paired with a devastating feline wit, creates the most hilarious character in recent movie history.
Let’s face it; the “Shrek” films are more about characters than plot. And while the plot of “Shrek 2” continues the “Beauty and the Beast” theme while adding some “Meet the Parents” situational comedy, it remains secondary. Through the characters we are able to really appreciate the Shrekian world for what it is: a big middle finger pointed at the fa