Making a sequel to any film is hard especially if it's a comedy. Not only do you have to put the characters back on a brand new adventure, but you have to make the story bigger, make even more memorable characters, and also make the jokes even more hilarious than they were in the first film. This can be said for comedy films that are also animated. While there are many funny animated sequels out there, I think there aren't many that I think can be seen as being than the original. "Shrek 2" is a major exception especially considering the gigantic reputation it had to live up to. When the first film came out in 2001, it was a gigantic hit for DreamWorks not only receiving critical acclaim and making a lot of money and even swept the awards picking up the first Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. It even made the AFI's nominations for the 100 Movies list in 2007. While I do think that "Shrek" is still a very good animated movie that I do enjoy watching now and then, I don't think it's held up as well as people built it up over the years. "Shrek 2" on the other hand is a sequel I can say has held up phenomenally well. To put it lightly, this is one of the greatest animated sequels ever made and I really loved watching this film again.
After the events of the first film, Shrek (Mike Meyers) and his new wife Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) return home to the swamp after their honeymoon. Once they get home though, they are invited by Fiona's parents, Harold (John Cleese) and Lilian (Julie Andrews), to come to the kingdom of Far Far Away for a celebration. Along with Donkey (Eddie Murphy), Shrek and Fiona set off for the kingdom only for their welcome to turn sour really quickly when the kingdom discovers the princess and her new husband are both ogres. While Lilian is more accepting of the surprise, Harold is not and rather angry that a plan he made with Fairy Godmother (Jennifer Saunders) for Fiona to marry Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) has gone astray with the latter two also being even more unhappy. Hoping to set things right with Godmother, Harold hires a hitcat named Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) to take out Shrek though this also goes astray and Puss ends up teaming up with Shrek and Donkey. Hoping to set things right with Fiona and her parents, Shrek sets off to change himself to get the blessing of the family and to make Fiona happy.
Looking back at this film, I'm really amazed at how well it has aged over the years. Like I previously stated, the film had a lot to live up to coming off the massive success of the predecessor, and this film really delivered in such a brilliant manner that I think it not only lives up to being one of the best-animated movies DreamWorks has ever made but also one of the greatest animated sequels that have ever been released. The biggest reason why it works so well is easily the story. While the first film was a poke at the fairy tales genre, its story still did feel like a fairy tale due to how simple it was in hindsight. This story though is much bigger and has a larger scale that really builds and builds with the twists and turns it takes. Director Andrew Adamson took some inspiration from the Stanley Kramer film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and from there he puts his own spin on the parents meeting the new husband while still finding ways to poke fun at pop culture and fairy tales. It's a film where you constantly guessing what's going to happen next and it builds to one of the best animated third acts ever. The climax is so much fun and filled to the brim with so much energy and life that you can't take your eyes off the screen. The story benefits from some hilarious comedy as well. These jokes are so hilarious that I was laughing pretty hard seeing them again. They never will get old and those are always the best kind of jokes. As far as the animation goes, this animation has aged like fine wine. It still looks just as fresh and innovative as it did in 2004 and a lot of the new techniques and tools built exclusively for the film really paid off. The character animation is still very lively and moves fluently and the backgrounds are all stunning and visually detailed. The kingdom of Far Far Away is really a sight to behold with its mockery of Los Angeles and how it mocks areas like Hollywood and Beverly Hills. Even places like the Poison Apple where all the fairy tale villains hang out is a great villain bar and I love how detailed it is. Speaking of details, another thing I especially loved where lots of the visual details the artists added that give so much life to the world and characters. It's small things like that really make me appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into animated movies like this. If there's one thing about the animation that hasn't aged the best, it's some of the background character animations as it looks a little awkward and feels somewhat uncanny at times though it's not too distracting. As far as the characters go, all of them are fantastic and perfectly realized. The growth Shrek has in the film and his character arc is perfectly realized and I genuinely loved how much he cared for Fiona and what he was willing to do for her. Fiona is also a great character and I like how she's trying to make things right for her new husband and her parents with the change she had to go through in the last film. Donkey and Puss also have some funny moments and their relationship was very funny with how they constantly bicker at each other while trying to help Shrek meet his goal. I did like the parents too with Harold's character have a great character arc and Lilian having some funny moments even if her character was underdeveloped. Then there are the villains who really are a huge step up. Fairy Godmother truly is a menacing character that is willing to do dirty deeds to put her plans in motion while her son Prince Charming is hilarious with how much of a pompous spoiled brat he is. These are villains you just love to watch and they make the film all the worth it.
In my opinion, "Shrek 2" truly is a fantastic animated sequel. The story is bigger and has some fantastic comedy, the animation has aged phenomenally well and has great visual details, and the characters are all top-notch and are really fun to watch. This truly is one of the greatest animated sequels ever made and I really highly recommend it. It's a sequel that really lives up to the hype.