An enjoyable if not especially imaginative sequel to 2001's monster smash, Shrek 2 will entrance those who loved the original. The rest of us can have fun and forget it, for there's little here to match the storytelling skill of Finding Nemo. Mike Myers returns to voice the big green beast, who's married Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) and must visit his resentful royal in-laws (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) and deal with the double-dealing Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders).
Myers is strangely muted as Shrek, playing straight man to Eddie Murphy, who again gets the best lines and the biggest laughs as the smart ass, Donkey. "The position of annoying talking animal has been filled," he snorts at Puss-In-Boots (Antonio Banderas), an apparently ferocious feline assassin who wrongfoots enemies with his cutesy, saucer-like eyes. Banderas has great fun with the role, gently mocking his own Zorro persona, while Murphy's terrific, rat-tat-tat delivery shows why he became a star in the first place (if only his live-action outings were half as impressive).
"A SLEDGEHAMMER-SUBTLE SATIRE OF HOLLYWOOD"
The Kingdom of Far Far Away is the setting for a sledgehammer-subtle satire of Hollywood, which never offers anything dangerous or perceptive - just observation that it's glitzy, glamorous, and commercial. The companies whose names are gently mocked probably don't object to the (free?) advertising. And, as with the first outing's Matrix parody, so there are obvious nods to other movies (Alien, for one) for the adults to enjoy. None of this can disguise the rather thin story or lack of verve in the action scenes, which tend to feature Shrek, Donkey et al running away to the strains of songs such as Pete Yorn's ear-bleeding cover of The Buzzcocks' Ever Fallen In Love. (You can't blame them.)
Still, it's made a mint in the States, where punters returned to watch it again and again. Perhaps they forgot they'd seen it all before...