Shrek 2 is more entertaining than its predecessor, and-as children's entertainment-almost as troubling. The sequel to the phenomenally successful 2001 hit features even more impressive computer animation, some great gags, and an engaging storyline. And it's not quite as offensive as the first film. Shrek 2 (rated PG for some crude humor, a brief substance reference, and some suggestive content), however, still contains enough inappropriate material to be disturbing to parents.
But, clearly, not many parents are bothered by the movie's smoothly subversive humor, as Shrek stomped back into theaters to a record-setting first-weekend performance. It's the movie to beat this summer, and it's easy to see why. Directors Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon, and their team have crafted an undeniably entertaining anti-fairy tale, lampooning classics like Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, and, especially, Disney's now familiar take on them.
In this story, Shrek (voiced by Mike Meyers) and Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz)-the latter sacrificing her human beauty to live as an ogre with her big green husband-travel to Fiona's home kingdom of Far, Far Away to attend a ball in honor of their wedding. As expected, Fiona's new hue doesn't go over too well in the Hollywood-like land of beautiful people. Shrek, with the help of Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and new friend Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), must work to keep his marriage together in the face of opposition from Fiona's evil, conniving Fairy Godmother.
None of this in itself is that troubling. Although the cynicism of self-referential, postmodern entertainment can be tiring, none of what Shrek gently pokes and prods is above parody. And it is nice to see a cartoon with a little meat on its bones, with writing that works on several levels. What's exasperating is the film's dependence on suggestive humor, with an almost obsessive interest in sexual perversion. In the midst of an abundance of very clever material, scenes like one implying that Pinocchio wears women's thong underwear are frustrating and excessive.
Fans of C.S. Lewis have reason to examine the Shrek films with renewed interest. Co-director Andrew Adamson is on board as the director of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the first in a planned series of film adaptations of Lewis's beloved Chronicles of Narnia. Mr. Adamson clearly has the gifts to bring that story to life on screen-let's just hope he sticks pretty closely to the original material.