Like its predecessor, Shrek 2 received positive reviews. Shrek 2 scored the second-largest three-day opening weekend in US history at the time of its release, as well as the largest opening for an animated film until May 18, 2007, when it was eclipsed by its sequel Shrek the Third. As of 2011, it is the inflation-adjusted 32nd-highest-grossing film of all time in the US. It went on to be the highest grossing film of 2004. The associated soundtrack reached the top ten on the Billboard 200. It is also the seventh-highest ticket selling animated film of all time. It is DreamWorks's most successful film to date and was also the highest-grossing animated film of all time worldwide until Toy Story 3 surpassed it in 2010; it is now the sixth highest-grossing animated film of all time.
After Shrek and Princess Fiona return from their honeymoon, they are invited to a royal ball by Fiona's parents to celebrate their marriage. Shrek is reluctant to participate in, reasoning that he is worried about how Fiona's parents would react to her new look. Donkey appears, wanting to move in with them after a fall-out with Dragon, much to their consternation. They all travel to the kingdom of Far Far Away and meet Fiona's parents, King Harold and Queen Lillian, the former of which is repulsed by Shrek being an ogre. At a shared meal, Shrek and Harold get into a heated argument over how Shrek and Fiona will raise their family, and Fiona, disgusted at Shrek's behavior, locks herself away in her room that evening. Shrek worries that he has lost his true love, particularly after finding her childhood diary and reading that she was once infatuated with Prince Charming (voiced by Rupert Everett). When Fiona realizes that Shrek left she asks her father for help but he replies that he always wanted the best for her and that she should better think about what is the best for her, too. As everyone goes their separate ways, Harold is accosted by the Fairy Godmother and her son Charming. The two retell the Prince's adventures and how he overcame many obstacles and climbed a high tower in order to rescue her, but in vain. They reprimand Harold for breaking an old promise that Charming would be able to marry Fiona, and demand that he find a way to get rid of Shrek. Harold arranges for Shrek and Donkey to join him on a fictitious hunting trip, which really is a trap to lure the two into the hands of an assassin, Puss in Boots.
However, Puss is unable to defeat Shrek and, revealing that he was paid by Harold, asks to come along as a way to make amends. The three sneak into the Fairy Godmother's potion factory and steal a "Happily Ever After" potion that Shrek believes will restore Fiona's love for him. Shrek and Donkey both drink the potion and fall into a deep sleep, awakening the next morning to discover its effects: Shrek is now a handsome human, while Donkey has turned into a stallion. In order to make the change permanent, Shrek must kiss Fiona by midnight. He, Donkey, and Puss return to the castle to discover that the potion has also transformed Fiona back into her former, human self. However, the Fairy Godmother, having learned of the potion's theft, intercepts Shrek and sends Charming to pose as him and win her love. At the Fairy Godmother's urging, Shrek leaves the castle, believing that the best way to make Fiona happy is to let her go.
To ensure Fiona falls in love with Charming, the Fairy Godmother gives Harold a love potion to put into Fiona's tea. But Herold replies that it is not possible to make his daughter fall in love in this way. This exchange is overheard by Shrek, Donkey, and Puss, who are soon arrested by the royal guards and thrown into a dungeon. While the royal ball begins, several of Shrek's friends band together to free the trio and create a gigantic gingerbread man, which breaks through the castle's defenses so Shrek can stop Charming from kissing Fiona. He is too late to stop them; instead of falling in love with Charming, though, Fiona knocks him out with a headbutt. Harold reveals that he never gave Fiona the love potion, whereupon the Fairy Godmother attacks Shrek. In the ensuing melee, a spell from her wand, presumably to kill Shrek, rebounds off Harold's armor, when he commits self-sacrifice to save Shrek, and disintegrates her; it also returns Harold to his true form, that of the Frog Prince. He had used the Happily Ever After potion years ago in order to marry Lillian, but she tells him that she loves him regardless of his appearance. As the clock strikes midnight, Shrek and Fiona let the potion's effects wear off and they revert to their ogre selves, while Donkey changes back as well. Harold gives his blessing to the marriage and apologizes for his earlier behavior, and the party resumes as the credits begin.
They are interrupted by a brief after-party scene in which the Dragon, who had romanced Donkey in the first movie, arrives and reveals that they now have several dragon-donkey hybrid, or "dronkeys", babies.
- Mike Myers as Shrek (the deuteragonist)
- Eddie Murphy as Donkey (the tritagonist)
- Cameron Diaz as Princess Fiona (the main protagonist)
- Julie Andrews as Queen Lillian (the former fourth antagonist)
- Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots (the teratagonist)
- John Cleese as King Harold (the former tertiary antagonist)
- Rupert Everett as Prince Charming (the former secondary antagonist and the narrator)
- Jennifer Saunders as Fairy Godmother (the former main antagonist)
- Joan Rivers as Red Carpet Announcer
- Kate Thornton (UK version) as Red Carpet Announcer
- Larry King as Doris the Ugly Stepsister
- Jonathan Ross (UK version) as Doris the Ugly Stepsister
- Aron Warner as Big Bad Wolf
- Cody Cameron as Pinocchio; The Three Little Pigs
- Christopher Knights and Simon J. Smith as Three Blind Mice
- Conrad Vernon as Gingerbread Man; Muffin Man; Mongo; Cedric; Announcer
- Chris Miller as Magic Mirror
- Mark Moseley as Dresser
- Kelly Cooney as Fast Food Clerk
- Kelly Asbury as Page; Elf; Nobleman; Nobleman's son
- Andrew Adamson as Captain of the Guard
Special guest stars
- Joan Rivers' cameo marked the first time that a real person has been represented on screen by the Shrek animation team. Her part (though retaining her visual representation) was redubbed by presenter Kate Thornton for the United Kingdom release.
- On the DVD Special Features and in the U.S. edition VHS (just before the credits), Simon Cowell appears as himself on Far Far Away Idol, a parody of American Idol. (see Home Media)
Like its predecessor, Shrek 2 also acts as somewhat of a parody film, targeting adapted children's fantasies (mainly those adapted by Disney); and other DreamWorks animated films, also features references to American popular culture:
- The mermaid that washes up on Shrek in the beginning of the film bears a strong resemblance to Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid.
- Elements and landmarks in the fictional kingdom of Far Far Away bear reference to elements and landmarks of Southern California, particularly those of the Los Angeles area. For example, the kingdom bears a "Far Far Away" sign obviously modeled after the famous Hollywood Sign; and the "Friar's Fat Boy" restaurant which King Harold, Fairy Godmother and Charming "drive-thru" references the Southern California chain, Bob's Big Boy.
- The dinner scene where the camera cuts to different characters saying each other's names references a scene from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- The character Puss in Boots is based on Zorro, a character played by Banderas, who also voices Puss. His behavior references Zorro as he appeared in the 1998 film, The Mask of Zorro.
- Donkey yells out "I'm melting!" when it starts to rain, which is a reference to the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz.
- When Shrek, Donkey, and Puss are having drinks at The Poison Apple, Puss laments "I hate Mondays" in reference to the cartoon cat Garfield's catchphrase.
- When Mongo first enters Far Far Away, several people run out of a "Farbucks" in fear, only to run to another location across the street.
- When the Fairy Tale creatures rescue Shrek, Donkey and Puss, Pinocchio dives into the prison attached to puppet strings, a reference to Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible. The theme music can be heard in the background as well.
- Several parodies of well-known business exsist in Far Far Away, such as "Farbucks", a parody of Starbucks, "Baskin Robinhood", a parody of Baskin Robbins, "Burger Prince", a parody of Burger King, "Abercrombie & Witch", a parody of Abercrombie & Fitch, "Versarchery," a play on the designer label Versace and "Old Knavery", a parody of Old Navy.
- When Mongo sinks into the moat in front of the castle, he says "Be good." to Gingy, referencing E.T. (Steven Spielberg, director of E.T., was a co-founder of DreamWorks).
- When the Fairy Godmother appears to Fiona on her balcony when she sheds a tear due to the fight at dinner, the gold dress in which she makes Fiona wear, blows upward in reference to the Marilyn Monroe film The Seven Year Itch.
- When Puss is attacking Shrek and crawls through his shirt, he bursts out of the front, a reference to the chestbuster scene from the 1979 film Alien.
- When Mongo is getting made, it makes an evil chuckle, and Gingy yells "It's alive!" similar to Frankenstein.
- When Shrek is busted in the magic potion factory and shot at by the staff using cross bows, it is similar as the stormtroopers chasing Luke Skywalker in Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope.
The film opened at #1 with a Friday-to-Sunday total of $108,037,878, and a total of $128, 983,063 since its Wednesday launch, from a then-record 4,163 theaters, for an average of $25,952 per theater over the weekend. At the time Shrek 2's Friday-to-Sunday total was the second-highest opening weekend trailing only Spider-Man's $114,844,116. In addition, Saturday alone managed to obtain $44,797,042, making it the highest single day gross at the time, beating Spider-Man's first Saturday gross of $43,622,264. It also ranked #1 in its second weekend, grossing $95,578,365 over the 4-day Memorial Day weekend, narrowly beating out the $85,807,341 4-day tally of new opener The Day After Tomorrow. The film spent a total of 10 weeks in the weekly top 10 remaining there until Thursday July 29, 2004, and stayed in theaters for 149 days (roughly 21 weeks), closing on November 25, 2004.
The film grossed $441,226,247 domestically (US and Canada), and $478,612,511 in foreign markets, making a total of $919,838,758 worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of both 2004 and in its franchise. This also puts the film at 8th on the all time domestic box office list and 30th on the worldwide box office list.
The film also took away the highest worldwide gross made by an animated feature, which was before held by Finding Nemo, although the latter still had a higher overseas-only gross. With DVD sales and Shrek 2 merchandise are estimated to total almost $800 million, the film (which was produced with a budget of $150 million) is DreamWorks' most profitable film to date.
In August 2010, Disney and Pixar's Toy Story 3 surpassed Shrek 2 to become the highest-grossing animated film worldwide ($1.063 billion), but Shrek 2 still holds the record for the highest-grossing animated film at the American and Canadian box office as well as the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film at this box office. Disney's 3D re-releases of The Lion King (in 2011) and Finding Nemo (in 2012), Despicable Me 2 (in 2014), and Disney's Frozen (also in 2014) respectively, surpassed Shrek 2 and relegated it as the 6th highest-grossing animated film of all time.
The film was well received by a number of critics, many rating it good as it's predecessor, and some rated it even better. Based on reviews collected from 217 critics by the film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 89% gave Shrek 2 a positive review, with the site's consensus stating: "It may not be as fresh as the original, but topical humor and colorful secondary characters make Shrek 2 a winner in its own right." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average of 75 out of 100 based on 40 professional reviews published in newspapers, magazines and in highly regarded Internet sites, which indicates "generally favorable reviews."
Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars saying it's "bright, lively, and entertaining," while Robert Denerstein of Denver Rocky Mountain News called it "Sharply funny." James Kendrick praised the plot, who called it "familiar, but funny."
In contrast to the praise it received, even in some positive reviews, some critics said that the film wasn't as good as the original film. Peter Rainer of New York magazine stated the film "manages to undo much of what made its predecessor such a computer-generated joy ride."
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