Save it for the reunion, Shrek

2 out of 5 stars

Shrek 2 is a big, green, odorous ogre of a film.

Sadly, unlike the original Mike Myer’s beast of its namesake, Shrek 2 lacks any of the charm, wit, originality, poignancy or literacy to make that a positive denotation.

Whereas the first Shrek film managed to burp and pun its way into the hearts of viewers with its satirical wit and off-color humor, the second in this series fails to be anything other than annoying and repetitive.

Shrek 2 acts like a high school graduate returning for his class reunion, trying desperately to belch the alphabet and convince his cohorts that he hasn’t yet peaked. However, his 3-o’clock comb over, outdated threads and haphazard dance moves speak volumes to the contrary.

Sure, the cheerleader and fart jokes landed him ‘class clown’ accolades back in the 12th grade, but the desperate attempts to rekindle former glories make the returnee more closely resemble a dancing don’t-do-drugs commercial than a returned social king.

In other words, Shrek 2 tries way, way too hard to convince viewers that it still has what it takes to be the cool new comedy in town by rehashing old jokes and expended character quirks.

And, much like in the case of the 35-year-old dumb ass on the dance floor, it doesn’t take spectators long to realize what’s up.

After about 15 minutes, the only motivation to watch the beleaguered spectacle that is Shrek 2 any longer is sheer morbid curiosity as to how it’s going to embarrass itself further.

Much of Shrek 2’s failure to live up to expectations has to do with its tired and predicable plot.

After winning the hand of the physically bipolar Princess Fiona (she’s always an ogre now, too), voiced by Cameron Diaz, Shrek and his new bride appear to be living happily ever after-that is, until Fiona’s royal family in a land far, far away invite the newlyweds home for celebrations and blessings. Shrek begrudgingly abides, but upon arrival in Fiona’s homeland, he finds-gasp!-that her parents are less than pleased to see their beloved daughter has turned permanently green and married a monster.

Domestic quarrels ensure, and invariably result in ham-handed situational comedy that misses the laugh mark by miles.

Eventually, Shrek ends up moping in the forest, getting plastered with his buddies-Eddie Murphy as Donkey and Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots-splits a vial of happy-potion with an ass and decides to go about the redundant business of winning back his bride from the arms of some Herbal Essence commerical model named Charming.

Taken right out of the Hollywood scriptwriting play book, Shrek 2’s plot lacks any of the random absurdities that made the first film bearable.

Even the social critiques that were so well-placed in the original are overplayed in Shrek 2.

The only saving graces of Shrek 2 are that it happens to be well-animated-which it damn well ought to be considering the millions of dollars DreamWorks pumped into its production-and some of the vocal performances of its star-studded cast.

John Cleese plays Fiona’s frog-of-a-father with dry British humor and reserve, sometimes even managing to rescue his scenes from total inanity.

Banderas as Puss in Boots is charming, simply because the cat has a Spanish accent-and as everyone knows, there are absolutely no cats in Spain. Anywhere. None. Period.

Murphy’s Donkey is the only consistently enjoyable character in the film, although the spot-on portrayal of a self-absorbed, seemingly amphetamine-fueled ass couldn’t have been difficult for the actor-probably director’s instructions: “Hey Eddie, just play yourself circa 1987.”

As the credits roll and the last musical number comes to a clattering conclusion-and God save the queen, there are, like, five 3-minute-long musical numbers in the damn movie-Shrek 2 does little well other than suck.

But hey, even if Shrek 2 effectively succeeds only in demolishing its own comedic legacy, the $7.50 evening-admission price-per-child is by far cheaper than even the most cut-rate baby sitters these days. For that reason alone, Shrek 2 is every socially active parent’s new best friend.

Maybe that sheds some light on the film’s inexplicable success.

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