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Disney and Dreamworks are headed in different directions. One need only look at the latest animated product from each of the two studios to see a working example of this. After all, you're only as good as your latest accomplishment. Disney brought to a close its 65-year run of traditional cell animation features with the benign Home on the Range. Not only did that film lack laughs, it displayed an uninspired brand of storytelling that is so atypical of what we expect from the mouse house. Compare that to DreamWorks' latest film, Shrek 2, that combines the first installment's magical formula with clever storytelling and state-of-the-art animation to create the year's funniest and most entertaining film.

Credit the screenwriting team of William Steig, Joe Stillman, J. David Stem and David N. Weiss for expanding upon the successes of the prequel, without reducing 2 to a straight-to-video retread of the original. We pick-up the story as newlyweds Fiona (voiced by Cameron Diaz) and Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) set-out to visit her parents, the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) of Far Far Away accompanied by the annoying talking animal, Donkey (Eddie Murphy). As our pair of loveable ogres near their destination, it becomes clear to Shrek that he will be less than welcome in this image-conscious kingdom that suspiciously resembles Beverly Hills right down to the main drag's name of Romeo Drive. Shrek's fears are realized as the King's first words upon seeing him are, "my daughter has married a monster."

The expected warm welcome is further derailed by the anger of Fiona's fairy godmother (Jennifer Saunders) whose son, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) was handpicked to marry Fiona. The remainder of the plot centers around Fairy godmother's efforts to remove Shrek from the scenario, thereby ensuring her induction into the royal family. The pace, to this point, is a bit slow but is always kept lively by the shenanigans of the hilarious Donkey.

The fun of watching Shrek 2 comes from the clever pokes and jabs taken at legendary storybook characters and many of today's pop-culture icons. Along with most of the same fairy-tale characters from the first movie, 2 adds references to Sleeping Beauty, the Ugly Stepsisters, Charlie's Angels, Justin Timberlake, and more. But the sequel is definitely dominated by the charisma displayed by Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas). Banderas spoofs his smoldering Latin persona as a swashbuckling tabby hired by the King to dispatch Shrek. Cat lovers will greatly appreciate the movements and sounds of Puss as many of his activities are interrupted by passing of hairballs, bouts of purring and those huge, sympathetic eyes.

Shrek 2 masterfully displays the charm and wit of the original while still managing to turn convention upside down. My biggest fear was that Shrek 2 would overly rest on the laurels and successes of the original, but the Dreamworks animation team continues to blaze a significant trail in the world of feature animation. Much like Shrek is the ugly ogre riding into the beautiful land of Far Far Away, DreamWorks continues to make its presence known by stomping and rattling its way into the pristine Disney china shop.


DVD

DVD Details:

Screen formats: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.85:1

Subtitles: English; Spanish; French; Closed Captioned

Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; French: Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo

Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access; audio commentaries; surprise ending; technical goofs; featurettes; interactive games and activities.

* Commentary: with directors Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson and producer Aron Warner as they dicuss, among other things, story development and the animation process.
Featurettes:
o Tech of Shrek: Covers the details of the 3-year production process. Sadly this featurette contains a repeat of the chia pet donkey that comes from incorrect technical specification in the animation rendering.
o Multi-angle Storyboard Pitch of Deleted Scenes: Watch tha animators "pitch" their sequences to their colleagues.
o Progression Reel: Includes early sketches of many of the characters.
* Games:
o Preview and hints for the forthcoming Shrek 2 X-Box game.
* Deleted Scenes: Repeat of the goofs found on the Tech of Shrek documentary.

Number of discs: 2 disc set.

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