Opens: Now playing
The pitch: Big green ogre Shrek (voice of Mike Myers) and his bride, Fiona (Cameron Diaz), learn that her seething father (John Cleese) and a scheming fairy godmother (Jennifer Saunders of "Absolutely Fabulous") want to ruin their marriage. Will the newlywed ogres live happily ever after -- again?
Creative (voice) casting: Cheers for enlisting Antonio Banderas as the dashing, Zorro-like Puss-in-Boots. Jeers for the voice cameos of Larry King as the Ugly Stepsister, and Joan Rivers essentially as herself. Does DreamWorks think we like King and Rivers?
Gross-outs: The many flatulence jokes begin when Shrek and Fiona make bubbles in a honeymoon mud bath. The fairy godmother's sweatshop includes such magic potions as "Hex-Lax" and "toadstool softener." Puss-in-Boots has a hairball problem that resembles an outtake from Myers' The Cat in the Hat.
Money shots: Even the clever moments feel second-hand: The Fairy Godmother sings a parody of Beauty and the Beast's "Be Our Guest," complete with talking furniture; an oversized nursery rhyme character attacks a castle in a finale reminiscent of Ghostbusters.
Best line: "Don't be such a drama king!" Fiona's queenly mother (Julie Andrews) chides her angry husband.
Pop references: The spoofs run nonstop, including The Fellowship of the Rings and Spider-Man lampoons that went stale two years ago. Pinocchio and the Gingerbread man lead a rescue mission a la Mission Impossible. A seedy bar includes unsavory clientele like The Wizard of Oz's mean apple trees, and Captain Hook, who sings a Tom Waits song.
Better than the first? Two hulks are not better than one. The first found mild pleasures in subverting the Disney formula, but the sequel mistakes being cliched for tweaking cliches.
The bottom line: Unlike the wit of Pixar films such as Finding Nemo, Shrek 2 emphasizes the quantity of jokes over quality, and some of them definitely hit. But the gags feel too safe and familiar, as if written by the DreamWorks marketing and publicity department.
I can see Rushdie's stuff adapting well. Lots of plot to play with.