Shrek 2

Shrek 2 (2004)
Dreamworks Home Entertainment
Cast: Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese
Extras: Commentary track, Featurettes, Bloopers, Games, Music Videos and much more

It’s almost holiday season and the folks at Dreamworks are bringing the hit "Shrek 2" to DVD just in time for Christmas. Released in theaters earlier this year "Shrek 2" earned almost a whopping billion dollars in worldwide box office making it one of the most successful films of all time. With the recent success of Dreamworks newest CGI family picture "Sharktale", it seems almost a guaranteed bet that any CGI family picture released these days will be a massive success.

Practically every review that was written for this film while it was playing in theaters was positive. The only debatable question was, is it better than the first? When I had the pleasure of seeing it opening weekend I walked away very entertained but I couldn’t say whether I enjoyed the first more or not. Certain aspects of the sequel are clearly better. The animation and computer generated techniques that are in "Shrek 2" are beyond words. Such areas as Donkey getting wet from the rain or a large steaming latte spilling on a giant gingerbread man are so real and realistic that I’d like to see what Pixar is going to come up with in the upcoming "The Incredibles." The script is just as good as the first. In fact some of the humor in this film is better than the first. Being a cat owner and seeing Puss’n’boots hacking up a fur ball is priceless. And don’t get me started with the brilliant spoof of "Cops" that’s in the picture. The only aspect of the film that I would have to say is weakest is the selection and placement of music throughout the film. Some truly awful covers of some classic songs seemed to be slapped in the film just to sell albums.

Obviously not one but two more additions to the Shrek series are already in the works. Recently I found of that actress Cameron Diaz was paid $5 million to return as Princess Fiona for Part 2. And what’s more shocking was that she only had to do 18hrs of voice-over work. Wonder what she’ll be getting for the third and fourth. All I know is that everyone will be looking forward to them and as long as they’re able to maintain the originality of the first two than I’m happy.

"Shrek 2" begins with the telling of a tale about a Princess who had a curse placed upon her that caused her to turn into an ogre every sunset. The only way she’d be free from this awful curse is for her Prince Charming to rescue her from the Dragon’s castle. Unfortunately for those of you who have seen the first film, Shrek was the one to rescue the beautiful Princess Fiona from the castle. They also fell in love and married. During the opening song, Shrek and Fiona are happily enjoying their honeymoon (with an hilarious stab at Disney and "The Little Mermaid" so keep your eyes peeled). That’s about to change. Immediately after they’ve returned to the swamp, Princess Fiona receives word that her mother and father have asked her back to the kingdom of Far Far Away to arrange her marriage with Charming. What they are unaware of is that she’s still an ogre and also married to one. From that point forward we get to meet some great new characters such as the evil Fairy God Mother, The Ugly Step Sister, and the wonderful Puss’n’boots voiced by Antonio Banderas to perfection.

Note: Make sure you sit through the credits for a surprise new ending that is a little disturbing, but in a light-hearted way.

"Shrek 2" looks outstanding, which is no surprise considering every other CGI film looks perfect. The look of the film is identical to the first so we have a very nice balance of light and dark areas throughout the film. Areas that would show up in film shot pictures such as edge enhancement or film noise are non-existent. Not once could I spot a flaw. Colors are better than ever do to the fact that texturing and particle effects in computer animation have improved every year. For example, watch the opening of the film when Prince Charming is riding across a scorched desert with the intense yellow of the sun centered in the background. And then it shifts into a night sky. Simply gorgeous! Check out Chapter 8 and look at the colors in the forest and the introduction with Puss. And while you’re checking out Chapter 8 look at the details in everything. Look at the detail in the grass or fast forward a little to where Shrek and Donkey are looking into a watery brook. How they’re able to design software to achieve these visuals is beyond me. Not only can you see their reflection refract off the ripples of the water, you can still clearly see all the rocks below the surface of the water. This is a reference disc that deserves a spot right next to Pixar’s "Finding Nemo" DVD released this time last year.

I must sound like a skipping record but this is now the third time that Universal/Dreamworks has NOT included a <$DTS,DTS> track. Why? "Shrek" gave the option of a DTS 5.1 audio track. Myself and every other audiophile would like to know why Universal & Dreamworks are not including DTS recordings on their discs. It was standard with almost every film they released over the last 4-5 years so why the change suddenly?

Putting my frustration aside, "Shrek 2" is still a very good disc. I don’t considering it outstanding but I can find nothing to really complain about. Dialog in animation is vitally important, so it’s nice to hear every word of dialog spoken clearly throughout the film. Small details in the environments are easily distinguishable and are nicely spaced around the soundstage. The numerous music tracks in the film are placed in the front left and right leaving the center to handle most of what is going on in the scene. One of my favorite sections for audio is near the end (Chapter 17-18) when Shrek, The Gingerbread Man & a "Staypuff the Marshmallow Man Sized" Gingerbread Man are storming the castle while "Holding Out For A Hero" performed by Jennifer Saunders drives the scene forward. It’s one of the highlights of the film and plenty of fun. The only reason why I wouldn’t give it a perfect score is that the surrounds don’t seem to be used that much and again a lot of the music in the movie isn’t very good so it takes away from really enjoying the audio.

Unlike the original DVD release of "Shrek" this is a single disc release so all the extra’s are crammed on the same disc as the film. And there are a lot. In fact this disc has one of the most original bonus features I’ve ever scene and I wonder how much it ended up costing Dreamworks to create it.

First thing you’ll notice when you pop in the disc is that the opening menu is reminiscent of "The Brady Bunch". With nine windows laid out on the screen, each featuring a character from the film, and make sure you sit through it before starting the film. It’s very funny and only plays when the disc is first put in your player. Donkey goes about annoying everyone by coming up with as many alternate names to the film as possible. Unfortunately when you first put in the disc, they do not give you the option of skipping the trailers (Sharktale & the upcoming CGI film Madagascar).

The first and biggest feature I’ve seen in ages is called Far Far Away Idol. Yep you guessed it. It’s American Idol, Shrek style, featuring the return of the entire cast as well as the American Idol legend Simon, whose been computer generated very well to give his comments during the show. Different characters from the film sing 11 different songs and at the end you get to vote whom you felt was the best. What really blew me away was the fact that this bonus is fairly long and animated just as well as the feature film. The production quality is identical and every cast member, Myers, Diaz, Murphy, and the rest, provide their voices for it. I’m not a fan of American Idol at all, but this feature has a lot of charm and I’m very impressed that Dreamworks went to the effort of creating this impressive feature.

Next is "The Tech of Shrek 2." It’s a documentary featuring various small snippets with the visual artists of the film talking about the visual improvements that are possible only 3 years after the original was released. The 2 scenes I talked about earlier in the review are talked about how the technology wasn’t possible until now to achieve the stunning look of the film. Definitely worth a look for anyone who’s interested in seeing how they created almost everything in the film.

"Meet the Cast" is pretty self-explanatory. It’s basically what they might of showed on television featuring various interviews with the cast and showing them during the process of dialog recordings. It’s nice to see interviews with Eddie for a change.

"Meet Puss In Boots" is very much like Meet the Cast but it focuses entirely on the character including added interviews with Antonio. Again both these features are worth a watch but don’t have much depth.

"The Music of Shrek 2" covers both the music and score of the movie. Interviews with Counting Crows lead singer Adam Duritz, David Bowie, and the rest of the artists. I actually preferred watching this over listening to the finished tunes in the film.

"Technical Goofs" are various technical errors that occurred in the animation process while creating the film. I have the feeling that most of these were intentionally and were just a way for the animators to have fun and goof around with the various animation routines and test they were creating for the film.

Because most of the features that are list above are quite short, the only other bonus feature that has significant length to it are the two audio commentaries that are included. One is with directors Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon and the other is with producer Aron Warner and editor Mike Andrews. I haven’t had time to listen to them so I’m not sure how interesting they are.

And the last bit of features I’ll just briefly go over since there isn’t much to them. There is a section called Far Far Away Times which is newspaper headlines showing humorous headliners. Next is a Cast listing which gives information about all the major cast members of the film. Filmmakers & Production Notes is identical to the cast listing. And last but not least in a Dreamworks Kids section which features Music videos, games & some extra DVD-Rom content for the kids.

On Nov 5th do yourself a favor and pick up "Shrek 2". It’s a very entertaining film that can be watched over and over. A <$PS,Fullscreen> edition is also available but I do suggest purchasing the <$PS,Widescreen> edition labeled in the bottom left corner of the case.