When I was a child, I remember reading tons of books. After all, one of my favourite places to go as a little boy was the town library. I was a definite bookworm as a child, and to an extent, I am still a bookworm today.
Some of my favourite stories of all time as a child were classic fairytales. I mean, they were classic stories that have entertained generations of children for years. And, some of the stories were more than just fun to read. They taught us a lot about life and living it.
I mean, from reading fairy tales I learned that we can't catch wayward gingerbread men no matter how fast we run, I learned never to promise anybody my first born child unless I found out their name first, and I learned that if a person's hair was long enough, you could use it as a ladder to climb up the side of a tower.
Granted, the weight of the person climbing the hair would make the person's head hurt like hell, and you may accidentally scalp them. But, that's another story for another day.
The truth of the matter is that over the last ten years, classic fairy tales have become popular again. When I was working in the seasonal department of my workplace, the fastest selling statues were the ones that were based off of classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White & The Seven Dwarves.
Okay, so yes, the statues were of the Disney kind. They still sold. Especially the Grumpy dwarf statues.
Over the last few issues, Archie Comics have done an entire feature on fairy tales. If you pick up any of the recent Betty & Veronica comic books beginning with issue #264, you can see the Archie characters re-enacting classic fairy tales. So far, they have done Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, with The Little Mermaid and Rumplestiltskin planned for the upcoming issues.
And, in the world of feature films, many classic tales have been made and remade into box office blockbusters. All you need to do is examine the successes of such films as “Snow White and the Huntsman” and “Oz: The Great and Powerful” to see what I mean.
Well, today's feature film is one that was released almost a decade ago (which suddenly makes me feel somewhat on the old side as I remember very well the day I watched it). It was a film that also looked at classic fairy tales...in a rather humourous, sarcastic way. By combining elements of no less than ten different fairy tales with references to modern pop culture, you have almost what you could call a parody of a fairy tale...one that made almost a billion dollars at the box office in 2004 alone!
Which is fantastic...considering that the film happens to be a sequel.
Traditionally speaking, sequels tend to not do very well in comparison to the original. But consider this. When “Shrek” was released on May 18, 2001, the film made just under half a billion dollars.
When “Shrek 2” came out three years later, on May 19, 2004, the film made TWICE the amount. That's fantastic for a sequel.
And since I already did an entry on Shrek last year, I thought that this year, I'd look at “Shrek 2” (which coincidentally happens to be my favourite of the four Shrek films that make up the...what's the term? Quadrogy? Is that even a word?)
You know what, just for the sake of argument, we're just going to call it a quadrogy.
Okay, so as I mentioned before, Shrek 2 was released on May 19, 2004, and returning to the second film are Mike Myers as Shrek, Eddie Murphy as Donkey, and Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona. I could also talk about the fact that Gingy (Conrad Vernon), Big Bad Wolf (Aron Warner), Pinocchio (Cory Cameron), and Magic Mirror (Chris Miller) also return to the Shrek sequel...but they're more secondary characters, so we'll just give them an honourary mention.
There are also some new faces joining the adventure in the 2004 sequel. We have French & Saunders comedienne Jennifer Saunders as the Fairy Godmother, Rupert Everett as Prince Charming (who happens to have a connection to Fairy Godmother, but I don't want to reveal too much), Julie Andrews and John Cleese as Fiona's parents, and Antonio Banderas as this cute little creature.
But don't let those eyes fool you...he's not as timid as you might think. More on that later.
Okay, so we all know what happened at the end of the first Shrek. Shrek and Fiona end up falling in love with each other, Shrek ends up breaking the curse which has plagued Fiona her whole life (which surprisingly transforms Fiona into a female ogre), and Shrek and Fiona become ogre and wife, destined to spend the rest of their lives together in quiet solitude in Shrek's swamp hut.
But when Fiona and Shrek receive an invitation from King Harold and Queen Lillian of Far Far Away to attend a royal ball at their castle in celebration of Fiona's marriage to Shrek, Shrek is determined not to go. After all, Far Far Away is way too posh for him (seriously, the kingdom of Far Far Away kind of looks like what Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills would resemble in the mid-fifteenth century). Still, he agrees to travel to Far Far Away in order to make Fiona happy. Donkey also tags along for the carriage ride.
Needless to say, King Harold and Queen Lillian are quite...shocked at Fiona's appearance, and even more shocked to see who she has married. To Lillian's credit, she is more than willing to give Shrek a chance and treats him with kindness and respect. But Shrek and Harold get into a feud right from the very beginning, ending in a food fight that sends Fiona running to her chamber to get away from the tension.
It is here that Fiona first meets up with the Fairy Godmother, who initially comes across as a kind and gentle soul. She offers Fiona almost everything under the sun...talking furniture, a bichon frise, even a sexy man boy chauffeur named Kyle. But when Fiona rejects all of that, the Fairy Godmother's personality shifts into pure evil.
You see...unbeknownst to Fiona, years ago, Fairy Godmother entered into a sweetheart deal with King Harold. Fairy Godmother granted Harold his happily ever after when he was in his youth...but it certainly wasn't out of the goodness of her heart. She was actually blackmailing poor Harold into doing something for her. He had to make sure that Fiona was rescued by Prince Charming, and that Fiona and Charming would live together in perfect harmony.
Of course, we all know that Shrek foiled those plans in the first movie, and well...needless to say, it wasn't what Fairy Godmother dreamed of for Fiona or Charming.
But why would Fairy Godmother be so concerned about who Charming married? Well, I'm not going to tell you. Don't worry, the secret is revealed early on in the film. I'm just purposely holding details away from you, in case there are a minute few who have not seen the film yet. Nor will I tell you the reason why Fairy Godmother is blackmailing King Harold. But let's just say that finding out the background behind King Harold's “happily ever after” is simple if you know how to spot hidden clues and subtle dialogue peppered throughout the film. It's actually quite clever how they do it.
Anyway, with the threats of Fairy Godmother hanging over his head, King Harold reluctantly hires a hitman to take care of Shrek and Donkey while they accompany him on a hunting trip.
Enter Puss in Boots.
However, for all the bravado this murderous feline has, he certainly doesn't do very well in his job, as it doesn't take much effort for Shrek to overpower him. Puss in Boots later informs Shrek of King Harold's plot and Shrek begins to question whether he is the right person for Fiona to remain married to. It is right around this time that Donkey and Shrek come up with the idea to visit the Fairy Godmother for advice on how he can have his very own “happily ever after”. And despite Donkey's objections, Shrek decides to take Puss in Boots along, with Puss feeling ashamed for what he tried to do.
Of course, once the trio gets to the Fairy Godmother's lair, she cruelly and viciously tells Shrek that ogres don't deserve a “happily ever after” (all to persuade him to stay away from Fiona so that Fiona will eventually choose Charming instead). But when the Fairy Godmother's back is turned, Shrek, Donkey, and Puss in Boots steal something from her that could cause Shrek's dream to come true...or it may turn into Shrek's worst nightmare.
And, that's really all that I want to say about this movie. Again, I never spoil the ending to a film no matter how old the movie is or how successful it was. It's because I want you all to watch the film yourself and make your own judgments.
However, I do have some trivia for all of you.
01 – In the above song sung by Fairy Godmother, Jennifer Saunders went to a vocal coach to prepare her for the solo. I think the end results proved to be quite good, don't you?
02 – In the scenes that take place in Far Far Away, you may notice that a lot of the shops are spoofs of 21st century businesses. These include “Old Knavery”, “Versarchery”, “Farbucks”, and “Baskin Robbinhood”.
03 – In Fiona's childhood room, there's a poster of “Sir Justin” on the ceiling. Unbeknownst to the animators, Cameron Diaz had entered into a relationship with Justin Timberlake right around the time that Shrek 2 was being made, making this joke even more appropriate!
04 – Joan Rivers, Larry King, and Simon Cowell all make cameo appearances in the movie, though you'll have to wait until after the closing credits before you can see Simon.
05 – Puss in Boots was the most difficult character to animate, just based on the amount of work needed to make his fur appear realistic.
06 – Puss in Boots was deliberately designed after Zorro, ironically enough also a character portrayed by Antonio Banderas.
07 – The film's plot was loosely based on the 1967 film “Guess Who's Coming To Dinner”.
08 – The Fairy Godmother was originally planned to appear in the first Shrek movie, but the part was cut out. Therefore, she was made as the main villain of Shrek 2.
09 – There's a scene that takes place near the end of the film which has King Harold clutching a love potion with the number nine written on it in Roman Numerals. Love Potion No. 9...where have I heard that before?
10 – The entrance of Far Far Away was deliberately designed to look like the entrance of the Paramount Studios lot.
11 – One of the original concepts of King Harold was that he would appear in the film completely naked (playing off of the story “The Emperor's New Clothes”). Instead a different fairy tale was used to tell Harold's story.
12 – 300 Hewlett Packard workstations were used in the making of this film.
13 – John Cleese and Julie Andrews recorded their lines together.
14 – Tom Waits and Nick Cave voice the same character in the movie. I won't reveal which one they voice, but they can be found in “The Poison Apple” pub.
15 – While Larry King and Joan Rivers were credited with voices in the American release of the film, in the UK, their voices were dubbed over by British presenters Jonathan Ross and Kate Thornton.
16 – The author of the Shrek book series, William Steig, died during the production of Shrek 2, so the movie is dedicated in his memory.
17 – Jennifer Saunders was forced to record her lines in England, as she was in the middle of filming “Absolutely Fabulous” at the time.
18 – David Bowie was so impressed by Butterfly Boucher's version of “Changes” that she recorded for the film that he provided backing vocals for the track!
19 – There's a clever spoof of the O.J. Simpson arrest in 1994 inserted into the film. You know, the one with the “white bronco”?
20 – The “hairball” scene took three hours to record. Poor Antonio Banderas must have been exhausted!
21 – Queen Lillian can be seen reading a book entitled “Kings are from Mars, Queens are from Venus”.