Shrek 2 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I expected fine visuals from Shrek 2 and got them in this excellent transfer.
Across the board, sharpness looked terrific. No signs of softness materialized at any point during the movie. Instead, the flick appeared distinctive and well-defined. No problems with shimmering or jagged edges popped up, and I noticed no signs of edge enhancement. The movie lacked any source flaws.
Shrek 2 offered a lively palette that befit a fairytale story. The film displayed a wide variety of hues and always imbued them with great life and vivacity. Never did I discern any flaws in the colors, as they were consistently dynamic. Blacks were deep and firm, while low-light shots displayed solid definition and clarity. The image lacked a certain sparkle that would have made it among the all-time best, but it remained good enough for an “A”.
On the other hand, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Shrek 2 was less stellar. Some of this stemmed from the generally lackluster soundfield. The movie didn’t make great use of the surrounds and mainly focused on the front spectrum. In that domain, music showed good imaging and I also heard pretty positive localization and melding of environment effects.
The surrounds added general reinforcement for the most part. They kicked into moderately higher gear with a few scenes, especially during the climax. However, they didn’t act as strong partners in the mix. Not that this was a particularly ambitious track in general, as it usually stayed with a lot of music and only mild effects.
Ironically, music presented the weakest aspects of the mix in regard to quality. The score sounded reasonably dynamic, but the many pop tunes came across with less flair. They tended to lack low-end material, which made them sound thin. Effects demonstrated the best bass, as a few louder scenes offered good rumble and boom. Those elements also sounded clean and distinctive. Speech was good, with consistently natural and intelligible tones. I almost gave the audio a “B-“ because of its general lack of scope and the moderately weak music, but the climax packed just enough punch to earn the mix a “B”.
When we head to the DVD’s supplements, we find two audio commentaries. The first comes from directors Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon, both of whom sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. A chatty affair, the pair cover a mix of subjects, though most of them relate to story elements. We get a little information about visuals and animation, but mainly we hear about character issues, working out the plot and other areas, and keeping things on the right foot. The pair joke with each other - their frequent use of incorrect words becomes a running gag - and make this an informative and likable piece.
Next we get a commentary with producer Aron Warner and editor Mike Andrews. They also sit together for their running, screen-specific discussion. As with the directors’ track, this one focuses on storytelling, but in a different way. Here the chat concentrates on pacing, editing, and melding the different elements. Whereas the first commentary went over how they came up with the various story pieces, this one lets us know how they combined the parts into the coherent final. We learn about cut sequences as well as some music and a few technical issues. As with the prior commentary, this one displays a wry humor that allows it to remain consistently engaging. I like both commentaries, especially since they nicely complement each other.
Found on the main menu, Far Far Away Idol is a new piece of animation created for the DVD. We see various characters sing appropriate pop tunes for a judging panel of Shrek, Fiona, and Simon Cowell. It’s cute and enjoyable. You get to vote on your favorite, but it makes no difference, as the winner always remains the same. However, you can go online and cast a ballot there.
A featurette called The Tech of Shrek 2 fills six minutes, 32 seconds. It includes movie clips, behind the scenes elements, and interviews. We hear from Asbury, Warner, Vernon, writer/director Andrew Adamson, visual effects supervisor Ken Bielenberg, producer David Lipman, DreamWorks chief technology officer Ed Leonard, production designer Guillaume Aretos, character designer Tom Hester, co-supervising character technical director Lawrence D. Cutler, costume designer Isis Mussenden, art director Steve Pilcher, actor Mike Myers, and executive producer Jeffrey Katzenberg. They tell us a little about the movie’s various visual elements, and those include computer graphics challenges, costumes and production design. Unfortunately, the program emphasizes how “amazing” all the work is, so it provides very little real information.
In Meet the Cast, we get a 10-minute and four-second featurette. We discover notes from Adamson, Asbury, Vernon, and actors Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Saunders, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, Rupert Everett and John Cleese. They talk about their roles and the story. It’s fun to see the occasional shots of the actors at work, but otherwise, this remains a very promotional piece. Again, we hear how great everything is and we see an overabundance of movie clips. More recording footage and less hyperbole would make this a better piece.
With Meet Puss in Boots, we get a four-minute and three-second featurette. It presents notes from Myers, Diaz, Banderas, Murphy and Adamson. Banderas tosses out a couple of decent character insights, but mostly we see more movie snippets and hear a lot of praise for various participants. Yeah, it’s another fluffy piece.
Next comes The Music of Shrek 2, a four-minute and 55-second featurette. In it, we find remarks from Adamson, Banderas, music supervisor Chris Douridas, singer/songwriters Adam Duritz, E and David Bowie, singer Pete Yorn, and composer Harry Gregson-Williams. They chat about the movie’s songs, and we get a few notes about their origins. This program is a little more informative than its predecessors, but not much.
In the Technical Goofs section, we find a bunch of animation errors. These aren’t fake bloopers ala the Pixar DVDs; instead, they provide true rendering mistakes. There’s some creepy stuff in this three-minute and 21-second clip, but it’s mostly a fun look at the problems encountered by the animators.
When we go to the Far Far Away Times, we get 21 screens of material. These illustrations show the fake newspaper elements that mention the main characters. It’s a cute feature.
More stillframe information pops up in the Cast and Filmmakers domains. Within the former we get entries for actors Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Banderas, Julie Andrews, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, and Jennifer Saunders. The latter displays listings for director/writer Andrew Adamson, directors Asbury and Vernon, producer Warner, editor Andrews, producers David Lipman and John H. Williams, executive producers Jeffrey Katzenberg, writers J. David Stem, Joe Stillman and David N. Weiss, composer Harry Gregson-Williams, music supervisor Chris Douridas, editor Sim Evan-Jones, production designer Guillaume Aretos, visual effects supervisor Ken Bielenberg, co-visual effects supervisor Philippe Gluckman, art director Steve Pilcher, supervising animators Raman Hui, Tim Cheung, and James Baxter and costume designer Isis Mussenden. These offer above-average looks at the participants; they remain in the “annotated filmography” realm to a degree, but they provide more details than usual.
Additional text appears in the Production Notes. It looks at developing the sequel, the cast, and creating the animation. Despite a moderately puffy tone at times, the notes give us a pretty good look at various elements, with some particularly nice details about the animation challenges.
The DVD opens with some ads. We find promos for Shark Tale and Madagascar. The trailer for the latter also appears in the New from DreamWorks Animation section. Previews includes ads for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Two Brothers, Thunderbirds and Millennium Actress. In regard to the pieces that start the disc, annoyingly, unlike on most DVDs, you can’t zip these in a simple way; you can fast-forward through them but not use the chapter skip or menu buttons.
Under the “DreamWorks Kids” banner, a mix of other extras appear. “Shrek’s Music Room” contains three elements. Fiona’s Jukebox just acts as an alternate chapter search; choose a song from the movie and it’ll let you jump right to that tune. Sing-Along with Fairy Godmother shows that character’s song along with lyrics displayed on the bottom of the screen. Can’t we already do that via the various subtitle options? Finally, we see a music video for Counting Crows’ “Accidentally in Love”. It’s nothing more than the usual shots of the band performing mixed with movie clips. Blegh!
Favorite Scenes is essentially another alternate version of “Scene Selection”. It provides different clips under such subsections as “Laugh Out Loud” and “Gross Out”. It seems useless to me, but I guess it doesn’t hurt.
”Gingy’s House of Games” presents three components. Interactive Map of Far Far Away lets you select various locations. Pick them and then watch the relevant snippets from the movie. Find Puss In Boots offers a fairly pointless guessing game. Lastly, Save Fiona! presents a trivia challenge. It’s easy if you’ve seen the movie, and it’s forgiving if you miss any items. Your “reward” is nothing more than a clip from the flick, unfortunately.
If you liked Shrek, you’ll probably enjoy Shrek 2. Actually, the sequel’s probably a little better than the original, but both are similar overall. Though Shrek 2 offers some fun, it doesn’t ever really take flight. The DVD presents excellent visuals plus pretty good audio. Most of the extras are fluffy and useless, but the two audio commentaries include a lot of solid information. While I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about the movie, it comes across as likable enough to merit a moderate recommendation.