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Mommy, I'm bored," came the voice of a young girl, halfway through Disney's latest computer-generated effort, Happily N'Ever After. By the lack of laughs, she was only echoing the feelings of her peers around her. And no wonder. With tedious narration, obstinate lack of imagination, and pedestrian artwork, Happily N'Ever After (PG for mild action and rude humor) isn't likely to reach the big box-office numbers of recent fractured fairytale pics. It does, however, continue the trend of turning classic children's story structures on their heads.
Whereas Shrek took aim at the fable staple that love only flowers between the beautiful, Happily tackles the notion that it only occurs between the royal. Rather than a dashing prince, Rick (voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr.), a humble castle dishwasher, is the hero fighting to save fairyland and his one true love, Cinderella (Prinze's wife, Sarah Michelle Gellar), from Frida (Sigourney Weaver), her evil stepmother.
Led by Frida, the wicked of fairyland decide that after years of watching happy endings go unchallenged, it's time to do something about their embarrassing loss-to-win ratio. So from Rumpelstiltskin to the Big Bad Wolf to Jack's giant, fantasy's baddies band together to change the outcome of their stories.
An interesting notion perhaps in the right hands, here it goes nowhere and bores us to tears getting there. As Prince Charming, Patrick Warburton (who has built quite a career in animation since his Seinfeld days as David Puddy) manages to land exactly two jokes. But in this, through the entire 87 minutes of the movie, he stands alone.
Though frequently inappropriate, Shrek proved that a CG film can amuse both kids and their parents. Last year's hilarious Hoodwinked went one better and proved that it's possible to entertain all ages without resorting to sexual innuendo and gross-out jokes. Happily N'Ever After only proves that the idea of modernizing the Brothers Grimm for the sake of laughs may have finally jumped the shark.