By Elaine Wolff
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 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
A Hard Day's Night
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." •
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 tpr.org for reservations.