3 Theatrical trailer - Lemony Snickets, Thunderbirds, The Cat in the Hat
2 Audio commentary
R4 . COLOR . 88 mins .
PG . PAL
In this day of the CG animated age, perfection breeds perfection. What was once considered state of the art one month can quickly become old hat the next as new technologies, systems and techniques are constantly improved with the latest rendering software pushing the envelope of tomorrow and the hardware improving to cope with the increased detail and simulation needed.
Dreamworks presents Deep Impact 2
With Shrek being such a hit only a few years ago, it was inevitable that a sequel was to be developed. Sure, the technology was there to take the animation to all new pixelated heights, the likes we'd never seen on screen before, but could the story live up to it? Compliment it even, or take you to a place far, far away leaving the visuals to play second fiddle? It's a tough call this time around with each aspect of the movie out-doing itself in more ways than one.
We begin Shrek 2 where we left off in the original. Shrek (Myers) and Fiona (Diaz) are returning to the swamp after their much needed honeymoon to find Donkey (Murphy) looking after their humble home as best he can. Soon, the trio are invited to the Kingdom of Far, Far Away by Fionas parents, the King and Queen. Reluctantly Shrek agrees to venture off to the Country Club and receive their blessing. And so the tension of marriage, post honeymoon, begins to test the relationship.
It's not until they arrive in Far, Far Away that the real hijinx begins with the King (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews) expecting their 'human' daughter to have married Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), the son of the Fairy God-Mother (Jennifer Saunders). To rectify the problem, the King hires the services of local hitman Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to 'off' the green ogre. From there it's a race against time to stop Prince Charming and Fiona becoming the item they were 'planned' to be.
Beverly Hills Donkey
The star of the show this time round is easily Puss in Boots with his antics stealing every scene that he is in. Banderas lends his spanish flair to the part and the constant ongoing battle between Puss and Donkey for Shreks favor is sometimes as sublte as a look in their eyes or as painfully obvious as a kick in the n*ts.
It is amazing what a few years in the CG animation industry can do for a movie. Shrek 2 looks and feels absolutely amazing right from the beginning. Where Pixar restricted modelling of humans in the original Toy Story to a few select scenes, Shrek 2 goes above and beyond and creates some of the most realistic, yet still comical, looking humans in an animated feature. Not only that, every little subtlety from hair blowing in the window to rain soaking the fur of animals looks wonderful. This will take a few viewings for the nerd/artist/animator in you to appreciate the detail in every single scene.
As perfect as the original Shrek DVD was, the expectations for this sequel were pretty high but unfortunately it just doesn't reach the superlative heights I was hoping for. Yes we get a proper 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphically enhanced transfer, yes the detail in the imagery is fantastic, yes color is beautifully saturated throughout, yes the black levels are as they should be, yes there is no noise in this direct to DVD transfer, yes, yes, yes everything about the actual source itself is spot on.
Absolutely Fabulous Teeth
The problem here is that in some scenes there are obvious compression artefacts and that is a real shame. And this is not being picky because if there is a split second of artefacts in other titles it doesn't really deserve a mention but this time around it is noticeable after knowing what to look for all these years. Granted they are present in the scenes with more movement, but it's not even the quicker moving scenes, it's those normal speed pans.
Ok, maybe I'm being picky, as stated my expectations were extremely high for this release.
It just melts the heart.
When the entire soundtrack, outside of the voices provided by the actors, is done in post, you can't expect anything less than an involving experience and you get exactly that. Dialogue is beautifully rendered across the front sound stage with focus in the center channel whilst subtle effects are occurring all around you.
The soundtrack and the original film score are a great combination and suitably accentuate the plot as they are called upon. Soundtrack wise I always enjoy the 'Holding out for a Hero' song towards the end of the movie as it takes you to another level of anticipation as the movie comes to its conclusion.
Whilst we receive a 5.1 soundtrack here, available in English, Spanish and Catalan, there is a missing DTS soundtrack, for a Dreamworks movie that is. Obviously we can expect a DTS version to be released somewhere in the future in some special 2 disc edition; predicting of course.
For a single disc edition, there is a whole swag of extras here, almost too many. Well, there never really can be too many for those of you wanting to sit clicking through every possible nook and cranny for hours on end but when you're talking short 5 minute features everywhere, you crave a longer 30 minute version encompassing them.
The King gets Medieval!
The collection of extras I'm specifically referring to are The Tech of Shrek 2, Meet the Cast, Meet Puss In Boots and The Music of Shrek 2 which refer to the computer animation advances since the first, the original and the new cast of actors for the sequel, a look at what Antonia Banderas brought to Puss and the soundtrack to Shrek 2 respectively. At roughly 5 minutes each they really could have merged them into one larger feature. They encompass interviews with lead animators, directors, cast and crew across all areas of the movie and are a nice collection indeed.
One of the more interesting features on the original Sherk DVD was the inclusion of the technical goofs where by animation that was rendered overnight may have failed for whatever reason and produced some weird and interesting results the next morning. This feature returns for the sequel and is interesting to say the least.
You know things are getting a little desperate when extras are included for the sake of labelling the DVD as 'chock-full' of extras. The Far Far Away Times section is just pages of onion-esque satire with scenes from the movie making up small articles and headlines in the pages of a newspaper and is mildly amusing. Compliment this with the Dreamworks Kids section where a whole swag of menu options allow you to reference certain sections of the movie directly. Doesn't sound like much because it isn't. As an example, there's Fionas Music Jukebox which is an interactive jukebox to select a song from the soundtrack and go direct to that section of the movie. Nothing really 'added' but rather a different form of the 'scene selection' menu really. Granted there are some interactive sections like Gingys house of games that will provide seconds of fun, even for a child.
Now to the more common extras, stuff that really adds something special to the DVD beginning with 2 audio commentaries from the likes of directors Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon and the second with producer Aron Warner and editor Mike Andrews. By far the director commentary is the pick of the bunch because the two are having a great time talking about every little detail in each scene that you as a viewer would never pick out even going as far as stating "Rewind this part to see a guy in the background fall off a ladder. But only in the widescreen DVD version even if we are producing the commentary while watching the full frame version". At least they're honest.
He's a Stallion baby.
Finally, the heavily advertised Far, Far Away Idol feature where 11 contestants take up the challenge to perform on stage for judges Shrek, Fiona and Simon Cowell (creator of the Idol franchise). What's great about this feature is the 3D Simon Cowell the animators designed specifically for the extra which looks very accurate indeed. Outside of the short clips of each character singing, you get to pick who you believe is the Idol and that's it. Well, not exactly, you also get to go online and actually vote with millions of others around the world. Personally, Donkey steals the show.
Couple these extras together with some nicely animated menu screens, particularly the main menu in a Brady Bunch themed layout as well as some less than interesting DVD-ROM HTML based features and you've got a decent collection of extras. Not great, but decent enough for those that are actually true extras. The other issue is within the extras themselves where the video format changes from widescreen 16:9 enhanced to 4:3 letterboxed non anamorphic. The formatting is inconsistent across the extras which gets irritating for anyone with a widescreen TV having to set the zoom ratio of the TV each time it changes. Very annoying.
Shrek 2 takes Dreamworks' most profitable franchise to an all new level, easily becoming the highest grossing comedy of all time, and it's animated at that. With new state of the art CG and the addition of some classic new characters, the Happily-Ever-After fairytale has been re-written for a new generation of youngsters.
This is surely going to be the never-ending story for the 90's in that millions of parents world-wide will put the DVD in the player on repeat and let the shiny disc do the baby-sitting for them. The novelty might wear off soon enough, particular when Shrek 3 makes an appearance. The video is great, the audio is excellent, the extras are decent enough and the movie is great fun.