MPAA Rating: PG for for some crude humor, a brief substance reference and some suggestive content
Mom Rating: 5 out of 5
Kid Rating: 5 out of 5br
Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Antonio Banderas
Writers: Andrew Adamson, J. David Stern, Joe Stillman, David N. Weiss
Directors: Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
There was a time when it was easy to find a movie appropriate for the entire family. I wasn't born yet, but my parents assure me that when they were kids, (before television brought Hollywood entertainment right into the home), movie-going was an activity for entire family enjoyed together.
It's true that there was censorship back then which prevented filmmakers from using inappropriate language, excessive nudity and graphic violence. And I'm not suggesting we go back to those times, but it seems to me that studios back then found creative ways tackle stories that adults could embrace without wincing in the presence of their children. In my opinion, the freedom writers and directors enjoy today has made them lazy. They go for the most sensational, shocking, graphic means of telling their stories. The 18-24 demographic they target eat these films up, as do the critics. But every year, one film with appeal to the entire family breaks box office records... which proves that there is a wide audience for fare that can be enjoyed by audiences on both ends of the age spectrum and everywhere in between.
It's not that the studios don't try. Each of the majors releases a few movies each year that are designed to please the youngest members of the family. The problem is that nine times out of ten, these movies are of little interest whatsoever to their parents -- not to mention their older brothers and sisters. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy -- that families do not want to go out to see a movie in a theater. And the following year, the studios -- who tend to play copycat with each other -- green light fewer family films.
Next year, we should see a bumper crop of movies for the family, thanks to the runaway success of "Shrek 2." Sequels are a risky business, especially when the original film has the intelligence, comedy and heart of "Shrek." The animation department at Dreamworks has managed the impossible: They've picked up their story of ogres in love and taken it to the next level -- without losing any of the factors that made the first film such a delight.
Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy are back as Shrek, Princess Fiona and Donkey, and once again, they are turning fairy tale conventions on their ear. The sequel picks up where the first film left off, right after Shrek marries his princess. Their honeymoon is cut short when they receive a summons from Fiona's parents, the king and queen of Far Far Away, who understandably wish to meet their new son-in-law. Shrek, never the most social creature, has misgivings about this -- but Fiona prevails, and the couple - with Donkey in tow -- set off on their latest adventure.
The animators have had a ball creating Fiona's kingdom, which bears a suspicious resemblance to Beverly Hills. But where they display true genius is the casting of this film's new characters: John Cleese and Julie Andrews as the king and queen, Jennifer Saunders as a fairy godmother who bears some resemblance to Tony Soprano, and Rupert Everett as the jilted Prince Charming, whom the king and queen had expected their daughter to marry. While the queen seems accepting enough, her husband sets out to break up the happy couple.
The standout new character is a feline hit man contracted to assassinate the unsuspecting Shrek. Puss in Boots, as portrayed by Antonio Banderas, bears more than a little resemblance to Zorro. He's hysterical, and ultimately joins forces with Shrek and Donkey to reunite them with Fiona.
In the original movie, Shrek compared himself to an onion, saying that ogres have layers. Shrek 2, the film, has them too. Broad sight gags and silly puns, subtle references to pop cultural phenomena, and jokes that you will appreciate, even if they go over the heads of your kids. The producers do this within the framework of the fairy tale world they've created -- they stay true to it and their characters. And even though we're certain that our heroes will live happily ever after, getting their is satisfying... and fun.
We viewed this movie at Hollywood's ArcLight Theater, which caters to L.A.'s many cinephiles. For the run of this film, the management has added kids' fare at their snack bar (which usually serves expensive gourmet sausages instead of hot dogs; Toblerone and gelato instead of Bon Bons). And there were quite a few families in the audience that night -- however, we were still outnumbered by the hip young people who usually frequent the place, which tells you a lot about this film's appeal.
Dreamworks is expecting a blockbuster, and if first weekend grosses are any indication, they are right. They've already placed "Shrek 3" and "Shrek 4" on their production schedule, and our family couldn't be happier.
Donna Schwartz Mills took film classes in college and spent 13 years working in the entertainment industry before "retiring" to marry a "non-pro" (Variety's term for anyone in any other business) and become a mom. Today, she's lucky if she can attend two "R" rated films per year -- but she feeds her movie habit by dragging her little girl to every family film that comes out, often on opening day. She says she can't wait for her daughter to turn 17.
Donna is owner of http://www.Family-Content.com , the home of free and low-cost content solutions for family friendly websites and ezines.