Retro Review: ‘Shrek 2’


Tiger Media Network

As a kid, there were three places in Salina where I could get movies. The Salina Public Library, which had a nice but limited selection of films; the Blockbuster, which was by a trailer park that is no longer there; and The Arena. It was fun searching for various collectibles at the Arena. Whether that be Yu-Gi-Oh cards, video games, or movies. My first time going to The Arena, I was too short to see above the counter.  It was crazy seeing the amount of films that lined the walls of the old downtown store. Eventually, I’d start making a meager amount of money working for my aunt and uncle doing some odd jobs. I’d grow older and started working for the Braums by the highway. 

I was finally able to get my own things. Films I had loved from my childhood that had long since been lost could be replaced. “Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie,” “Pokemon The Movie 2000,” “Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island,” “The Karate Kid 2,” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)” are among some of the films I wanted to own. I have been feeling nostalgic for my childhood as I am about to graduate. I recently took a trip to Salina two weeks ago as my sisters and I had been dying for good Chinese food from the Great Wall, we also had to do some shopping. As we arrived in town I felt nostalgic for those fun times exploring, the hard work making money, and the friends who truly made an impact on me. Nearing the end of the day we checked in at a hotel, turned on the television, and to my surprise, “Shrek 2” was playing. This is the review that spawned from my nostalgia for my childhood.

“Shrek 2,” directed by Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon was released alongside other iconic animated works, including Brad Bird’s “The Incredibles” and Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle” in 2004. The film stars Cameron Diaz, Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Saunders, and more. It takes place after the events of the original “Shrek” with the film starting at Shrek and Fiona’s honeymoon. The film tells a sort of meet-the-parents arc as Shrek and company must venture to the land of Far Far Away to have their marriage blessed by her parents. Throughout the film, we meet new fairytale characters, hear iconic music tracks, and enjoy a plethora of iconic mid-2000s 3D animation. “Shrek 2” stands out among its contemporaries and the other entries in the franchise (other than “Puss In Boots: The Last Wish”) as having the legacy of being what some might call a “perfect sequel.”

Puss In Boots’s first appearance in the Shrek franchise

In order to understand just why the film remains so good and so iconic, we must first look at its new qualities, starting with its characters. New additions to the franchise that leave an impression include Puss in Boots, The Fairy Godmother, John Cleese as King Harold, Julie Andrews as Queen Lilian, a cameo from Joan Rivers as a red carpet announcer and Larry King as Doris the “the ugly step sister”/bartender. Each of these characters has important or memorable roles in the film, and each has moments that are funny or at the heart of the drama in the film. While not directly stated in the film, Larry King’s Doris is often attributed to transgender status. Whether this be due to this being alluded to in the “Shrek 2” video games or because some of the jokes – some of which would come off insensitive nowadays – is not explicitly known. Regardless, like many trans or gay characters or characters who have been assumed to be who have previously been made the butt of the joke in film, Doris is deservingly beloved by queer fans. When I see a queer character, who is made fun of, but also who has the potential to be a hero or has qualities I see in myself or qualities I like, I still find myself rooting for them. While we don’t get an entire arc for her here, the character is further used in “Shrek the Third.”

Doris, played by Larry King

Another aspect of “Shrek 2” that improves upon the original are the arcs the characters go through. This is especially true for the characters from the original film. Shrek and Fiona’s love story after their marriage in “Shrek” is at the heart of the film. Discussions of what it means to change for someone that you love alongside retaining what you are or who you are and ideas about not sacrificing are discussed in the film. Especially when you take into account the King is a fairytale character – the frog prince – by the end of the film. While Donkey acts as a very good supporting friend, he too has growth that he develops when Puss is introduced. Especially when it comes to his feelings of jealousy or understanding his importance as Shrek’s best friend. The King goes on a journey of growth against his prejudice and Puss in Boots, has small growth in this film, but growth nonetheless in redeeming himself and taking responsibility for his actions. All in all, what makes “Shrek 2” stand out as the best film of the franchise and as a fantastic sequel is based on the foundation of these characters. 

Finally, while Doris is celebrated for potentially being a queer representative, the Fairy Godmother from “Shrek 2” is heralded as a true icon. In short, the Fairy Godmother is a drag queen or the very least, that is the vibe that she gives off. Many of the LGBT people in my community, including myself, really enjoyed a melodramatic or campy villain. One who is not only comedic, powerful, and magical but most especially musical. Her introduction scene, her breaking her diet, her pouring in a giant bleach bottle of lust into the potion she makes in her potion factory, live in my brain rent-free. The Fairy Godmother is dragging people left and right throughout the whole film, is absolutely hilarious, has an air of bougie villainy, and of course, has that last “I need a hero” reprise. Not only does she have a magical costume change, but her song sets up for an intense and quickly unfolding climax. One with a lovable giant gingerbread man and flaming trebuchet against gumdrop buttons. This sequence alone sold the film for me as being a childhood favorite and one that was truly special. One that I could go back to and rewind multiple times.

“Shrek 2” is one of my all-time favorite films. While at first, I thought it may have been primarily because of the nostalgia that it elicits, it was actually (after a rewatch) for being able to have fun with its own material, new additions to its fairytale cast, development for its original character’s arcs, LGBT icons, and a leveled up villain in the form of the fabulous Fairy Godmother. The film remains one of the best sequels out there and one of my fondest experiences from my childhood. 

Finally, what makes “Shrek 2” most impactful to me is what it says about self-acceptance: no matter who or what you are, you deserve to be treated with respect, unfiltered by the inflicted consequences of prejudice, especially if you’re a person like The King who also would’ve been treated differently.