The first Shrek installment trailed off with Princess Fiona and Shrek falling in love after the once-hermit-like ogre rescues the beautiful princess from a castle tower guarded by a fire-breathing dragon. But lest we think the pair settled for living happily ever after, along comes Shrek 2.
Arriving back at the swamp after their honeymoon, the two lovebirds not only have to deal with Donkey’s insensitivity to their yearning for time alone, but something far more ominous. Fiona’s parents, King Harold and Queen Lillian, have sent messengers to invite the newlyweds to a royal ball. The royal couple, it seems, longs to meet their new son-in-law, and be reunited with their daughter. Unlike his naïve spouse, Shrek is convinced this is a bad idea, believing the welcome mat will be unceremoniously yanked once the monarchs lay eyes on him ... and their transformed daughter.
He’s right. At first glimpse of the monsterly duo, King Harold concludes his daughter has made a huge marital mistake. Compounding his personal revulsion of ogres is a secret pact he made with Fairy Godmother to let her son (Prince Charming) become Fiona’s spouse. Consequently, King Harold hires mercenary hit-cat Puss In Boots to do away with Shrek. Unable to do the deed, Boots switches sides and accompanies Shrek and Donkey to solicit help from Fairy Godmother. (They wrongly suppose she’s a compassionate soul out to help the less fortunate.)
Putting an additional crinkle in the saga, Shrek and Donkey down some of Fairy Godmother’s “happily ever after” potion. The magic causes both Shrek and Fiona to morph into attractive humans, while Donkey transforms into a stately white stallion. But before the handsome Shrek can reunite with his bride, Prince Charming catches up with the princess and pretends to be the made-over Shrek. Fiona is unaware that if Charming can steal a kiss before midnight, she will be under a spell to adore him forever.
As with the first installment, themes of inner beauty, loyalty, friendship, forgiveness and romantic love are central to this comic adventure. Characters apologize for stubbornness or insensitivity. When they realize Shrek is in trouble, old pals from the swamp rush to his aid. Additionally, marriage gets a strong plug for the most part (see “Other Negative Elements” below for the exceptions), while family bonds are shown to run deep.
Shrek 2 debunks the idealistic “and they lived happily ever after” myth by addressing in-laws challenges. As writer/director Andrew Adamson noted, “I started thinking about what happens after marriage, the idea being that you don’t just marry your spouse, you marry their whole family.” Dealing with the expectations of extended family drives the story line, the humor and some of the most positive moments.
While it’s implied that a parent’s blessing enhances a romantic relationship, Shrek 2 underscores the bigger picture idea that preserving a marriage is more important than dissolving it to satisfy a self-seeking and misled parent. In this case King Harold works hard to get Shrek out of the picture so that Fiona can wed Prince Charming. But Fiona wants no part of her father's malicious plan, choosing instead to stay committed to her vows.
When Prince Charming poses as Shrek, Fiona is decidedly unimpressed with what she initially perceives as Shrek’s narcissistic personality change. She later realizes Charming isn’t her husband and returns to Shrek. But there’s still the issue of whether or not to break the spell which has transformed the couple from ogres to lookers. Fiona decides to stick with her big green lug (“It’s the old one I fell in love with”), and the "ugly" couple's happiness does quite a bit to reinforce the fact looks shouldn’t matter. King Harold is humbled by a revelation of a secret he has been keeping for years, and repents for not accepting Shrek. Puss In Boots is prepared to lay down his life for his friends.
As with most fairy tales, unexplained magic is behind Fairy Godmother’s ability to transform objects by spells and potions.
Spoofing the movie From Here to Eternity, Shrek and Fiona embrace and kiss often. They romantically cuddle on a beach as waves engulf them, then withdraw to reveal Shrek kissing a mermaid (who gets what-for from Fiona). Viewers discover that Pinocchio wears women’s thong underwear. During the final credits viewers ascertain that Donkey has fathered a litter of half-donkey, half-dragon creatures with the fire-breathing dragon from the first installment.
The bartender in a country tavern is referred to as “The Ugly Stepsister,” but actually looks and sounds like a man in drag. He/she refers to a man as “gorgeous.” Following Shrek’s transformation into a handsome human, several peasant girls lust after his “round buttocks” and grope him. When it’s determined, “We gotta get you out of these clothes!” (meaning he needs to change them), the girls gasp with lustful excitement.
When creating Fairy Godmother, Shrek's animators seem to have had in mind a middle-aged woman who erroneously believes she’s quite sexy. Godmother displays quite a bit of cleavage, and in one scene belts out a musical number (mimicking a lounge singer) wearing a dress slit mid-thigh. In yet another, she points out that her coach driver has a “sexy tush” before she spanks it. And she adds a mixture labeled “lust” to a potion.
Again, most of the violence is slapstick and cartoonish. A mermaid gets thrown to the sharks. Donkey accidentally kicks Shrek in the groin. In Charlie’s Angels fashion Fiona overcomes her husband’s enemies with karate kicks. Viewing Fiona and Shrek for the first time in the princess’ homeland, not only are the parents shocked, but a stunned bird flies into a wall and apparently dies. Enemy archers use crossbows and bows. Puss In Boots attempts to punch would-be captors. Later, he sword fights with King Harold’s guards. A fiery gumdrop is catapulted into a giant gingerbread man who eventually winds up under water. (Viewers later learn he survived.) Fiona head-butts Prince Charming after he forces a kiss.
Crude or Profane Language
Several uses of the British vulgarity “bloody.” “Butt” is used a number of times. Puss In Boots calls Donkey an “ass” (with obvious double-meaning). Donkey talks about a “B.M.”
Drug and Alcohol Content
King Harold visits a pub, a place where customers drink and nefarious people meet to conduct business. Impressed with Fiona’s homeland, Donkey quips that “it’s gonna be champagne and caviar from now on.” King Harold’s men frisk Puss In Boots and discover catnip (a wink at criminals on C.O.P.S. being caught with illegal drugs).
Other Negative Elements
Shrek 2 explores the concept of how far a spouse should go in a marriage to demonstrate love. For Shrek this includes a willingness to sacrifice the relationship itself in order to make his bride happy. (He finds a diary from Fiona’s childhood that expresses dreams of marrying a handsome prince, and he wrongly concludes she’d be better off wed to a non-ogre.) This type of sacrifice might sound noble, but not fighting for one’s marriage actually shows disrespect and dishonor to a spouse, and undermines the permanence of a sacred institution. Complicating Shrek’s “sacrifice” is the fact that it’s not something Fiona desires. (Which on a positive note says a lot about her character.)
As was the case with the first Shrek, rude humor is a problem—from belches and hairballs to mild innuendo and flatulence. Several characters lie. A poster of “Sir” Justin Timberlake on Fiona’s bedroom wall could be interpreted as a plug for the performer’s sleazy real-life music. In the royal palace, guests dance to Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” which includes the lyric, “She’ll make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain.” Pinocchio does a Michael Jackson impression that includes grabbing his crotch.
There’s a lot to like here. The script is witty, entertaining and chock-full of family-friendly messages. Once again, the animation is superb and the voices are brilliantly convincing. But ill-timed and ill-intentioned scenes are salted throughout. I can’t help wondering why a movie with product licensing and ad tie-ins targeted at young children has to include material edgy enough to demand a PG rating. The MPAA was right to warn parents about “some crude humor, a brief substance reference and some suggestive content.”