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Shrek finds more beauty in being ugly

The franchise returns with another chapter and high expectations.
/ Source: Reuters

Even a big green ogre, especially one named Shrek, can go through growing pains.

“Shrek 2,” the computer-animated sequel to the 2001 hit “Shrek,” debuts Wednesday with its makers promising a thoughtful, twisting and turning tale complete with all the fairy-tale mockery that made the first movie a smash hit.

In “Shrek,” the antennae-eared monster (voice of comedian Mike Myers) and his sidekick donkey (Eddie Murphy) saved the beautiful Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz) from a fire-breathing dragon. Along the way, it poked fun at just about every fairy tale written by the Brothers Grimm or dreamed up by Disney.

The irony, and genius, of “Shrek” was that its happily ever after ending was similar to those in the fairy tales it mocked. Fiona morphed from princess to ogress and married her hero Shrek. The movie’s ribald humor and ultimately sweet message — love comes in many different forms — thrilled audiences.

“Shrek” won the first Oscar ever given for a full-length animated movie. It earned around $267 million at U.S. and Canadian box offices and a total $455 million worldwide.

If “Shrek 2” does become as big a hit as the first, it will be welcome news to DreamWorks, the studio formed 10 years ago by Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg which has had a mixed success.

It has been widely reported that many industry experts think DreamWorks’ Big Three may be contemplating an initial public offering of stock, and could use a strong box office performance to bolster its prospects.

Audiences turning out for “Shrek 2” find that in it the fairy-tale world of happy endings clashes with responsibility in the real world. “I wanted to make ‘Shrek 2’ a more complicated and intricate story,” said director/screenwriter Andrew Adamson, “and ... I didn’t want to disappoint the fans.”

Early reviews and audience reactions are solid. And, in the end, Adamson should be able to live, well, happily ever after.

Inner beauty, sour puss“Shrek 2” opens with the couple on a romantic honeymoon. When they return to Shrek’s cabin in the swamp, donkey is waiting for them. His love life with the tamed, fire-breathing dragon hasn’t fared as well and Shrek’s with Fiona.

Fiona’s human parents soon summon the couple to her home in the land of Far Far Away. But her parents don’t know she married an ogre, nor that she decided to live as an ogress.

Still, being the dutiful daughter she is, Fiona tells Shrek there is no way she will ignore their request. Shrek, being the good guy he is, agrees to meet the in-laws. So all head to Far Far Away, which looks a lot like Hollywood. A Far Far Away sign is fixed high atop the surrounding hills and a shopping district seems oddly akin to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

Once there, audiences learn Fiona was to have married the suave Prince Charming (Rupert Everett). Fiona’s father, King Harold (John Cleese) hires a swashbuckling swordsman, Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas), to send Shrek packing.

The king’s plans go awry, however, after Shrek and donkey befriend Puss and find a secret potion makes Shrek a handsome human and restores Fiona’s looks. The question for the couple, now, is whether being beautiful will make them truly happy.

“Shrek 2” zeros in on a cultural obsession with image, and there’s no better place to do that than in Hollywood. But, rather than getting too serious, the film provides a lot of jokes along the way, especially from the Zorro-like Puss.

“These movies have such a wonderful edge to them, while still being appropriate for kids,” said Julie Andrews, who supplies the voice for Fiona’s mother, Queen Lillian.

Indeed, the hallmark of the most successful animated movies like “Shrek” has been their broad appeal to both kids and adults. Early reviews are solid, if not as strong as the first.

Show business newspaper “Daily Variety” said, “Lightning strikes twice, but not as brilliantly as before,” and also calls the sequel “welcome.” “The Hollywood Reporter” wrote that while “Shrek 2” lacks some of the magic of the first, it “has a most definite kick” and predicts “it will be a major hit.”

But “Charming” Everett disagrees. “I think it’s way better than the first,” he said. “These films, cartoons now, are the only ones that say anything interesting about us.”