Shrek (PG)

“Shrek 2” starts amazingly slow with a plot so contrived it appears destined for purgatory-that ethereal realm of mediocrity where all sequels seem to go. 

Except “Empire” of course. And “The Godfather Part II”. And “Aliens”. And. Well, okay. So a few sequels manage to escape the clutches of oblivion to stand on their own merit and eventually “Shrek 2” breaks the gravitational pull of the black hole of pointlessness to become a decent film in its own right.

But what an awful first half-hour! Shrek’s insecurity over meeting his in-laws (in particular his father-in-law) comes across as shallow fluff; strictly “Thirtysomething” material at best and even two prized comic geniuses (John Cleese and Mike Myers) can’t break that spell of sequel doom. Fortunately, The King (Cleese) finds an assassin to off his son-in-law and Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Shrek (Myers) are lured into the trap. It is not so much that Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) saves the film, as it is just happy coincidence that the movie finds new life when he finally does arrive. A fantastic hour of entertainment follows. Once Donkey, Shrek, and Puss finally decide to undertake a quest of their own, the pace really picks up and so do the laughs; no fairy tale character, movie, or bastion of consumerism is spared.

The MPAA has given “Shrek 2” a PG rating for some crude humor, a brief substance reference, and some suggestive content. An alternate name for donkey is used with double meaning (as with the first film), there is some sexual innuendo (most likely over a child’s head), and some good-old fashioned cartoon violence with a Hollywood twist.

I’m not prepared to say “Shrek 2” surpasses the original. Due to the painfully slow start, I’d have to give it my second-best “MATINEE” rating. Take the kids to the discount show and buy a bucket of popcorn for the whole family.