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Review: 'Shrek 2' even better than 'Shrek'

Sequel surpasses original in creativity, laughs

By Paul Clinton
CNN Reviewer

Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and Donkey (Eddie Murphy), along with Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) return in "Shrek 2."
Mike Myers
Eddie Murphy
Cameron Diaz

(CNN) -- "Shrek 2" is a Hollywood rarity: a sequel every bit as good -- if not better -- than the original.

The whole gang is back and then some. Mike Myers returns as the voice of the lovable ogre Shrek; Cameron Diaz is once again Princess Fiona, now happily married to the ogre of her life; and Eddie Murphy is still spouting one-liners, providing marvelous comic relief as Donkey.

Fiona and her main man are settling down into domestic bliss when her parents, the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) of the Kingdom of Far Far Away command them to attend a royal ball. Now, they're the ones who sent Fiona into exile in the first place, due to her annoying habit of turning into an ogre when the sun sets.

The parents' plan was for Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) to rescue her, thereby breaking the curse and making her beautiful 24/7. It didn't work, because Shrek rescued her first, but the King and Queen haven't learned that yet -- nor do they know that the couple is married. (As always, the parents are the last to know.)

So, when Fiona shows up with Shrek (and Donkey in tow), the parents are royally -- well, let's just say they're less than thrilled.

Welcoming a clever cat and a fairy godmother

In addition to the royal couple and Prince Charming -- whose charm is questionable -- there are some other wonderful characters added to the mix.

Antonio Banderas is hilarious as Puss-In-Boots, a feline assassin who is sent to kill Shrek, but instead becomes his staunch ally. Donkey, however, is not happy with his new sidekick competition.

At one point, he turns to Puss with the withering comment, "I'm sorry, but the position of annoying talking animal has already been taken."

Jennifer Saunders of "Absolutely Fabulous" fame plays the Fairy Godmother, who is secretly the mother of Prince Charming. Notice there is no "good" proceeding "Fairy" in her name. This fairy godmother is rotten to the core, and determined to replace Shrek with her toothy smiling son, no matter what the cost.

Cultural Cuisinart

The Queen and King (Julie Andrews and John Cleese) are none too pleased with their daughter's choice of a mate.

So many sequels come off like a side dish nobody ordered. But "Shrek 2" feels just as fresh as the original. The storyline picks up seamlessly from the first film and doesn't feel forced at all.

The film was directed by Andrew Adamson, who was also behind the first film, and the story is chock full of laughter for all ages. There are puns a-plenty for the kids, and of course tons of wonderful zingers of the sort that adults loved so much in "Shrek."

The Kingdom of Far Far Away is a dead ringer for Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, and there are dozens of other cultural touchstones, such as the theme song to the old TV show "Rawhide" with new lyrics, and parodies of such movies as "The Matrix" and "Spider-Man."

Also look for a bit with a picture taped to the ceiling above Fiona's girlhood bed. The stud in the photo, "Sir Justin," looks a lot like a certain Justin dating a certain actress who happens to provide Fiona's voice in this film.

"Shrek" was the first animated film to win an Academy Award in the category of best animated feature. Now with "Shrek 2," the filmmakers may pull off another Oscar win in the same category.

All in all, "Shrek 2" is downright wonderful. It's the best comedy of the year so far.

"Shrek 2," a DreamWorks release, is rated PG. The film opens Wednesday.

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