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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Adamson’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published July 15th 2004:

The original Shrek won such notable popular and critical acclaim (even to the point, it’s rumoured, of AMPAS creating a new ‘Best Animated Feature’ Oscar just to stop it winning in the main category) that the arrival of a sequel – imaginatively entitled Shrek 2, and directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon – shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone. Nor, really, given the quality of said sequel, should the fact that it’s already crowbarred its way into a spot high up on the all-time box office smash list. This, coupled to the fact that it seems to be the most widely pirated film in history, leads me to believe that you’ve probably already seen it and don’t need me to tell you what I think of it and whether or not it’s any good.

And so let’s move on to a much less ubiquitous movie from Japan… hmm, well, on the other hand, I suppose I may as well say a few words about Shrek 2, just for the benefit of those visually-impaired h2g2 members who never actually go to the pictures but still enjoy having film reviews read out to them. Let no-one say I ignore minority interests in this column!

Shrek 2 picks up pretty much where the original concluded, with curmudgeonly ogre Shrek (an uncharacteristically muted performance from Mike Myers) on honeymoon with his new bride Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz). However, the dread moment soon arrives when Shrek must meet his in-laws, the King and Queen of the distant realm of Far Far Away (John Cleese and Julie Andrews). And so off they set, in the company of the faithful (and deeply annoying) Donkey (Eddie Murphy).

Shrek and his bride’s parents do not hit it off. And things deteriorate still further when Fiona’s Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) shows up, very unhappy with the King. Her son Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) is the one Fiona is supposed to marry. So the King is forced to hire the feared swordskitty Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to dispose of his new son-in-law…

Well, with a cast like that and a willingness to go just about anywhere in search of a punch line, it’s no surprise that Shrek 2 is very funny indeed. This time around, however, there seems to be a bit less interest in lampooning fairy-tale clich├ęs and a lot more enthusiasm for more contemporary satire. Far, Far Away is, of course, a dead spit for modern Hollywood, with a Starbucks on every corner, while the film and TV parodies come thick and fast throughout: Lord of the Rings, Zorro, Cops, Alien, and many more (for me, the Cops spoof – along with the opening titles – was the funniest bit of the movie). The fact that this is a million miles away from the average family cartoon is only reinforced by some very off-the-wall gags and presence of a Buzzcocks cover on the soundtrack.

CGI animation has now reached a point where a film like this can cover the whole range of comic possibilities: rather than just sticking to cartoonish slapstick and sight gags, the facial expressions are now subtle and inflected enough for genuine character-based wit and interaction to be possible. Maybe this why even the performances seem a bit of a step up from the average film of this type. (The UK release of this film has actually re-voiced a couple of minor characters using local celebs rather than their US counterparts, a slightly odd undertaking as the presence of Jonathan Ross in an American blockbuster is, let’s face it, deeply incongruous. I notice the filmmaker’s haven’t bothered amending the credits to reflect this manoeuvre either.)

But, having said all this, there are a couple of sequences which don’t quite gel as well as they might, and the more contemporary style does detract a bit from the original Shrek‘s charm. It also seemed to me that this time round the emotional core of the story seemed a little bit forced, rather than arising solely from the characters. However, these are quibbles and quibbles only (and it would be extremely anal of me to start pointing out plot holes in animated comedies).

I don’t think there’s another current film genre where the average level of quality is as impressive as it is where CGI features are concerned. Sure, they’re not going to change your life, they’re very rarely subversive, and they’re not exactly deep, but when it comes to technical ability, performances, and just stringing very decent jokes together non-stop for ninety minutes, the only objective reaction is to be deeply impressed. And Shrek 2 is amongst the very best of the lot. Recommended (like it matters).

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