Among life's more anxious rituals is this one: taking a new boyfriend home to meet the parents. That's especially so for Princess Fiona, since Mom and Dad are King and Queen of Far Far Away, and her beloved is green, overweight and notably lacking in the social graces. Also, of course, his best pal is an emotionally needy, motor-mouthed Donkey.
In Shrek 2, the altogether adorable sequel to the animated sensation of three years ago, the nice young couple is obliged to overcome many obstacles before gaining her family's acceptance of an ogre as son-in-law and a genial ending. Mostly the trouble stems from a Fairy Godmother who thinks her handsome, egomaniac son would be a much better mate for Fiona, but who goes to Shrek movies for the plot? God may or may not be in the details, but the best laughs surely are.
For example, this film's most delightful new character is Puss In Boots (brilliantly voiced by Antonio Banderas). Hired by the King to slay Shrek but soon his ally, Puss vies with Donkey for the coveted role of "annoying talking animal." Striking a heroic pose, swishing his sword with menacing elan, he is suddenly undone by that most undignified of feline problems--a hair ball.
So it goes in this movie: Pinocchio has a cross-dressing secret; Joan Rivers does inane fashion commentary on the red carpet leading to a palace shindig; a dash to rescue the Princess is interrupted by corrupt cops who plant an illegal drug--Yikes! It's catnip--on Puss while tabloid TV covers the bust. The most basic Shrek joke--satirized modernity intruding on fairy-tale romance--is played in 100 variants, some of which will sail over the heads of the littlest kids in the audience (there's plenty else to keep them giggling) but will be very gratefully received by those on parental-guidance duty. This wonderfully animated movie is a little more softly pitched than its predecessor, but it still has plenty of rollicking spin on the ball. --By Richard Schickel