Shrek 2 DVD Review

After a few false starts with animated films like "Spirit," DreamWorks finally nailed one with "Shrek." After pulling in an insane amount of box office, not a single soul on this planet wouldn't be able to figure out a sequel was coming down the pipe. It's not about whether or not "Shrek 2" is a better movie than its predecessor, it's about HOW much better "Shrek 2" is.

Shrek (Mike Myers) has married his only love princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz). Happily married and living in a swamp, Fiona feels it's time for Shrek to meet her parents. The situation quickly grows into a domestic dispute as the King (John Cleese) fails to accept a giant ogre as his daughter's husband. But, no one is more distressed over the current situation as the Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) who's son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), was supposed to marry Fiona. Everything ends up like it only could in the world of Shrek as the Fairy Godmother hatches a scheme to put her son into the arms of the princess.

"Shrek 2" spoofs just about everything. Whether or not you'll catch all the jokes will certainly require knowledge of pop culture and other films, but even if you don't, the movie still shines. It's not about the standard fairy tale story serving as the backdrop; it's actually not all the important. What sells the movie are the characters and the world they inhabit.

There are surprisingly only a few new additions to the cast, but the most prevalent is Antonio Banderas voicing Puss In Boots. After failing to perform, well, "a task" assigned to him by the King, his entire demeanor changes, giving him a hilarious personality and one of the most memorable in the movie. Eddie Murphy also returns as the films best secondary character, proving that just maybe Murphy has a career left after bombs like "Pluto Nash" and "I-Spy."

Not only are the characters each brilliantly conceived, so are the environments. Every single frame of this movie is a work of art, suitable for framing on any wall. The CGI is just so advanced from what we've seen in the past, it's all jaw dropping. Some of the human characters appear a little stiff, but it prevents them from standing out against the other "less human" characters on the cast. Everything here has a much more distinct style than the Pixar films, completely separating itself from the competition.

This is not the rare sequel that eclipses the original as some other critics have said. This is the ever rarer breed, one that stomps, beats, crushes, and slaughters it's forbearer. This is a more evenly paced film; one that spreads its comedy around to make sure the laughs stay prevalent throughout and that makes sure you'll never have to deal with a dull moment. There is little here that isn't better than the first "Shrek." If you can't find something to like, you might as well just stop watching movies. (*****)

Nearly every all CG movie gets a digital-to-digital transfer nowadays, and it's one of the greatest things to ever happen to the format. Every single pixel of detail has been retained in this release. Nothing is lost to compression, startling considering just how much stuff is packed on a single disc. Color could never get any stronger than it is and there's no need to worry about any bleeding. Everything holds together. It's transfers like this that make this job so much easier. (*****)

There are few moments in "Shrek 2" that really work over the audio. What is included remains just about perfect though, using the rear channels when the opportunity presents itself and the LFE when it's called upon. There is nothing wrong with the dialogue, which comes through cleanly. There's no worry about distortion. It's not particularly active, but then again, there is little to complain about. (*****)

The big feature being touted for this DVD release is "Far Far Away Idol," a parody of a certain TV show featuring Simon Cowell. Oddly, Mr. Cowell is featured here as well. Here members of the cast do their thing as Shrek, Fionia, and that guy up there critique their performances. At the end, you can pick a winner. All the animation was made entirely for this release. My vote goes to the Three Blind Mice if you care.

Two commentaries are included, though only one is listed on the back of the case. The first comes from Conrad Vernon and Kelly Asbury, two of the three directors. Commentary #2 comes to use from Aaron Warner (producer) and Mike Andrews. It's odd not to see the third director (who was also responsible for the screenplay and story) Andrew Adamson get some time on one of the tracks.

"The Tech of Shrek 2" is a short, basic, and rather uninteresting six and a half minute look at how CGI comes together. "Meet the Cast" works a little better as it runs along for ten minutes, offering some nice scenes of them working in the studio. "Meet Puss in Boots" is a nice four-minute feature if you haven't already seen the movie and it has a lot of Antonio Banderas for some reason. "The Music of Shrek 2" is self-explanatory and run for five. "Tech Goofs" are mildly amusing, showcasing how CG can go awry for a little over three minutes.

"Far Far Away Times" is a great idea; showing fans a paper from the fictional city showcased in the film. Not such a great idea is the inability to actually read anything other than the headlines. There's an entire section for the kids to have some fun with, including printable photos, games, music videos, and specific scene searches. The rest of the disc is padded with various cast/crew information and a look at DreamWorks's next feature. Though some of the features are terribly disappointing, the menus make up for it. The opening menu is an inspired "Brady Bunch" parody, and one that you should stick with for a minute or two. (****)

Not surprisingly, "Shrek 3" is in production and things are looking good for a 2006 release. Though there is very little chance for the studio to eclipse themselves again (about as much of a chance as the Red Sox winning a World SerÖoh, wait), there is still plenty of life left in this franchise. The studio could probably stay afloat on sequels to this series alone.

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