New review

Long-lost Puss in Boots cozies up to Shrek in a charming sequel to the green ogre's blockbuster debut.
New review

By Elaine Wolff

Shrek 2

With Shrek 2, the creative team that concocted the perfect antithesis to all that saccharine fairy-tale princess crap Disney hawked to a generation of impressionable little girls has left the youth audience entirely behind. The first installment - featuring an ogre with a brogue (Myers) who kisses the enchanted Princess Fiona (Diaz) and turns her into the beautiful, burping, farting ogre she was meant to be - was animated rock 'n' roll therapy for parents who grew up burdened with medieval expectations in a post-Summer of Love world, but there was enough action thrown in, including a dragon and a lengthy chase scene, to keep up the pretense of taking the kids to the movies.

The sequel continues to satirize "happily ever after" by following the newlyweds home to meet Fiona's parents, who are under the impression that the spell has been broken by the Prince Charming of lore in favor of her human incarnation. To support what might otherwise be a tired storyline, Shrek 2 digs deeper into Mother Goose and the Bros. Grimms' pockets and comes up with the Gingerbread Man, the Muffin Man, and, most deliciously of all, Puss in Boots. Banderas plays Puss as a fabulous Zorro parody who coughs up the occasional hairball, and fools his enemies with a doe-eyed impersonation of a '60s-era Gig kitty ("Ooh, he's so cuuuute," they coo, lowering their swords ...).

Shrek 2

Dir. Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon; writ. Andrew Adamson and Joe Stillman based on the book by William Steig; feat. Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Julie Andrews, Antonio Banderas, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, Jennifer Saunders (PG-13)
Enter Saunders' scheming, diet-busting Fairy Godmother ("Only a Teardrop Away" read her business cards), a callow Prince hammed up with gusto by Rupert Everett, and John Cleese's alternately conniving and sniveling King, and the delicious mayhem begins. A cross-dressing barmaid known as the Ugly Stepsister, who predictably eyes the lip-gloss-wearing Prince at the end further hammers home the message that this is a love story for alternative families of all stripes.

Shrek 2 lacks some of the sense of wonderment and surprise of the original, and the second round of obvious jabs at Beauty and the Beast are a little strained, but the kingdom of Far Far Away is a funny, if somewhat gentle, spoof of Hollywood - if it were reigned over by the eternally good and wise Julie Andrews. But this clever follow-up to a home run offers several laugh-out-loud moments, even if the use of the song "Livin' La Vida Loca" at the end feels a little like a bromide. •

By Elaine Wolff

Special screenings

A Hard Day's Night

A Hard Day's Night

Dir. Richard Lester; writ. Alun Owen; feat. The Beatles, Wilfrid Brambell, Norman Rossington, John Junkin (G)
As revered as the Beatles are for their work in the late '60s, it's easy to take their early career for granted. Songs like "She Loves You" and "I Want to Hold Your Hand" have been Golden Oldie-ized to death; even if we know we like them, we're not always glad to hear them when they arrive over supermarket PA systems.

A Hard Day's Night is a quadruple-dose antidote to that malady. From the classic opening sequence in which the lads flee their rabid fans (hiding in phone booths and slipping in one car door and out the other) to some of the most wonderful closing credits ever constructed, the film is full to the brim with the energy, wit, and charm that made the Beatles a real phenomenon.

Alun Owen's script makes the bandmates look like the cleverest people on earth (though it must be said that in documentary footage from this period, like the Maysles Brothers' wonderful but hard to find What's Happening! The Beatles in the U.S.A., the boys did pretty well even without a script), and the musical sequences are - even (especially?) in the MTV age - unfailingly entertaining. In the case of "And I Love Her," the musical component manages to be moving as well.

As if the band weren't enough, Wilfrid Brambell (as Paul's mischievous granddad) gives a performance sufficient to carry a film on his own. Seeing the pop icons in their own contextual turf after all these years, they still prove to be, "fab, and all those other pimply hyperboles." •

John DeFore

A Hard Day's Night screens Tuesday, May 25 as part of Texas Public Radio's "Cinema Tuesdays" series. 7:30 pm at the Bijou at Crossroads Theater, admission $10 members / $12 non-members, 614-8977 or for reservations.

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