An in-depth analysis of the “Holding Out For A Hero” number in Shrek 2

*spoilers ahead for the peasants who still haven’t seen this 2004 classic*

It was late at night, as I tossed and turned in my bed in which my 9 lb cat was somehow taking up most of the room, I decided to rewatch a classic from my childhood. Now, for those who truly know me, know that I have a deep appreciation for the cinematic arts. However, I picked the old-fashioned route and pressed play on a so totally *~nOT~* illegally downloaded copy of Shrek 2 that I found on the interwebs from a website that did not start with “www” and also may or may not have included Portuguese subtitles. (not my millennial fault I only have this film on VHS).

Screen Shot 2018-11-03 at 9.31.44 PM
the evolution (credit: Twitter)

Shrek 2 grazed our lives in April of 2004 after the successful first movie of the franchise, Shrek (2001). When the sequel came out, I saw it THREE F*CKING TIMES in the theater because I loved it THAT much. To spare you ~7 years of me just explaining why this movie is one of the greatest sequels films of all time, I will break down this individual incredible scene of when Fairy Godmother covers “Holding Out For A Hero” in the 2nd Act of the film.

My Very Opinionated Thoughts

Okay, first of all, HOW DO YOU EVEN THINK OF SOMETHING LIKE THIS (rhetorical)??!?!?! Who came up with this idea of a scene, GOD?! JESUS?! WHITNEY HOUSTON?! Did Dreamworks give that person a g*ddamn raise!?! (all still rhetorical)

A musical number like this shouldn’t exist; we as muggles are unworthy of its greatness. Sorry not sorry in advance but I honestly prefer this cover of “Holding Out For a Hero” sung by queen Jennifer Saunders versus the peasants in Footloose. There’s a saying that “things get better as time goes on” and the 1984 original version just really cannot compare to this 2004 cover. It actually took me until 2010 to realize that this song was not WRITTEN for Shrek 2 as an original song but in fact was written for an entirely different movie. I was shocked to learn that this was a cover because the lyrics matched up so well to what’s going on in the movie when it cuts back to Shrek and the gang and Fairy Godmother.

Regardless, the stakes in the movie are clear at this point, if Fiona kisses Charming, then she falls in love with him and it is an instant game over for Shrek. We are all so invested in Shrek’s plight to stop that kiss with all the close calls in the scene but oh my goodness it is freaking hysterical. AND at the same time, the Fairy Godmother is channeling her inner “Barbra Streisand/Patti Lupone/Mariah Carey” by pouring out her evil, fierce heart onto the stage. It almost makes me want to ROOT for the Fairy Godmother in winning the entire movie despite being the antagonist. Kind of how I felt when I first saw Bette Midler sing “I Put a Spell on You” in Hocus Pocus and thus my musical theatre boners were born. Anyways, OH MY GOD THIS COVER! I cannot get over how well the “hero” vocals sync up with the action and the underlying score. Jesus Christ, this cover may be the best thing Dreamworks has ever created. Actually, it IS. This scene is better than the entire film of The Prince of Egypt and that movie MOVED my cold, little Jewish heart. However, I will admit that The Prince of Egypt is an overall better movie, but this individual scene in Shrek 2, is better than every individual scene in the Prince of Egypt (I might regret saying that the next time I rewatch “When You Believe”).

My Very Opinionated Analysis

Let’s start at the iconic opening when Fairy Godmother commands this line at 0:30 (that honestly should be in AFI’s Best Quotes) to the pianist, “C minor, put it in C minor”…..then the pianist proceeds to play in G minor. Incredible. Cut to 1:24-1:29 and I get literal chills, every single time. This part sets the tone for the rest of the scene by beginning the suspense that is about to come. Remember when I said that the “hero” vocals sync up well with the action? When FG sings “hero” at 1:31, the camera zooms out to show Shrek ready to save the day and thus, foreshadowing some heroism. This same motif is shown at 3:31, 3:48, 3:53 and 4:36.

In this scene, we are also introduced to Mongo, the gigantic version of The Gingerbread Man made by (you guessed it), The Muffin Man.

Image result for the muffin man shrek
Lord Farquaad, may he rip

At 2:44-2:49, from FG running in place to diva posing while using with her wand as a microphone, I can FEEL that emotion so strongly. She’s so passionate and motivated to get Charming to win over Fiona like the good, evil Fairy Godmother she is.

From 3:01 and onward, my heart is racing so fast. From Mongo’s inevitable death to Shrek’s many near-death experiences, my mind is almost about to give up since this scene is clearly working in Charming’s favor at this point. Seriously though, at 3:23…nice save, Fiona! I didn’t know how much the suspense in this movie could get until 4:01, it’s like the editors were TRYING to kill me. I remember this exact moment happening in theaters when Puss decided to stay back and distract the guards with his adorable cat eyes. The entire theater all “awwww” at that beautiful feline moment. Amazing.

Alas, here we are at the very end, when just at that very moment, Shrek the hero, stops Charming from kissing Fiona and saves the day. Pshhh you all know what happens next in the movie! Now let’s pray and all try and forget that Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After ever happened.

thank u, next.

Honorable comedic mentions that involve Mongo: 1:50 oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, not tHe GUMDROP BUTTONS. 2:43 MORE HEAT, LESS FOAM (were the knights guards trying to make a cappuccino or…?), 3:40 the small “E.T.” reference to when Mongo’s last words to Gingi are “Be goooooood”. I loved the many cultural references that were included in this film.

Editors Note: Just to clarify, this was originally going to be a blog post solely about why Shrek 2 is the greatest movie sequel of all time (fact) but ended up turning into 75% being about this one scene. Deal with it.

If Shrek is ever made in a live action film & Meryl Streep isn’t cast as Fairy Godmother, I will riot. (Credit: The Sun)

3 thoughts on “An in-depth analysis of the “Holding Out For A Hero” number in Shrek 2

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