In “Shrek the Third,” Cameron Diaz’s ogre bride shares tea time with the fairy-tale world’s fairest princesses – Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel.
With Diaz’s plump Fiona expecting a litter of tiny ogres with hubby Shrek, her old princess pals throw her a baby shower in the animated sequel that opens May 18. True to the Shrek world, these are not the well-behaved princesses of classic children’s stories.
Snow White (voiced by Amy Poehler) is a haughty queen bee, Cinderella (Amy Sedaris) is an obsessive clean freak and Sleeping Beauty (Cheri Oteri) is a narcoleptic who’s constantly nodding off. Rapunzel (Maya Rudolph) looks down on her royal cousins as if from a high tower and hides a terrible secret about her glorious hair.
After Prince Charming leads a coup, Fiona must teach her pampered friends – whose natural inclination is to assume passive positions and wait to be rescued – how to stand up for themselves.
Diaz and her princess posse sat down with The Associated Press to share their thoughts on the “Shrek” films, their favorite animated tales and why these modern damsels don’t sit around waiting for men to rescue them.
AP: Can we assume you four newcomers were fans of the first two “Shrek” movies?
Sedaris: This is the first one I’ve seen.
Poehler: I loved them. It’s so good to be able to see a film that you can watch with a kid and your grandparents. So many talented people are in it, and the tone of it, it’s first-class all the way.
Oteri: I was amazed. It was written so well, it was so sophisticated, yet it was still very enchanting, like you remember when you were a kid when you watched the Disney films. It still had that old-fashioned kind of beauty to it.
Rudolph: There are so many great people involved in these movies that when you get a phone call to be involved, it’s such a nice feeling. I get to be part of it, too? It’s such a compliment, like, “We do this thing that’s already great, and we’d like you to be a part of it.”
AP: This seems like a female-empowerment or princess-empowerment film. What’s that say about the old fairy-tale notion of, as the princesses say, “assume the position” and wait for some man to save them?
Sedaris: Sounds good to me now. It does.
Diaz: The princesses “assume the position,” that comes from the old-school fairy tales that at one point were a comment on society. That’s what these fairy tales are for, to recognize what the values are and how society is constructed at the period of time those stories are being told. And current-day storytelling obviously is that. It’s telling what currently we are as a society, how we perceive ourselves. I love that it’s commenting on where we’re at right now as women. It’s also holding it up to our past. It’s turning that on its ear but having fun with it, allowing them to grow into the women we are today. Taking them with us. Rather than saying, “You’re completely wrong,” it’s saying, “Here’s the ability to change.” At the same time, it’s not just a message for princesses. It’s a message for everyone, because we all need to know that you can’t sit around and wait for someone to come make it happen for you. You have to be proactive in your own life.
Poehler: Well done. … What’s also nice is we go through this transformation, where we kind of literally rip off our feminine things to fight. There’s this nice raw moment where we get kind of dirty, and we don’t stay so put together.
AP: What are your favorite animated films? And you can’t say one of the “Shrek” movies.
Poehler: Well, we can say whatever we want, sir. You may not write about it, but I can say it!
Sedaris: I always liked Mr. Magoo. I liked his eyes, and whenever I have allergies I feel like him. I always liked how swollen his eyes were, slammed shut, and he couldn’t see. That Christmas movie of his is really good.
Poehler: I have a really obscure movie I love. It’s not animated, but live-action with puppets. Did anyone ever see “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas”? It’s a Jim Henson Christmas movie with puppets, but they ice-skate and they’re on water and in rowboats. It’s so good. That’s an old chestnut nobody knows about, and you won’t write about it.
Oteri: I remember “The Incredible Mr. Limpet.” It combined live action with animation, and I thought that was crazy! Is it a cartoon? Is it a movie? I don’t know! But I think there was such an appreciation with any of the Disney cartoons, because they only came on once a year. You didn’t have the video and DVD we have. I always stayed up for those cartoons that came on once a year. Or even like “The Ten Commandments.” (slipping into an impersonation of nasally Edgar G. Robinson) “Where’s your messiah now, Moses?” I used to go around the house and imitate Edward G. Robinson.
Sedaris: I loved all the Disney movies. I saw “Snow White” not too long ago. It’s just beautiful.
Rudolph: Did you have a party? Did you have people over to watch it?
Sedaris: Actually, no. I watched it by myself.
Diaz: The animated film that would come on television that I could not wait to see, and it was a family event, was “The Hobbit.”
Rudolph: I remember going to see “Bambi” in the theater, and then Bambi’s mom dies, and I went, “What? Why is that in a kid’s movie?” If I had to show that to my daughter, I think I’d wait on that maybe a little bit. Now that I’m watching some of the stuff that we watched growing up, the “Bugs Bunny” cartoons and stuff, there’s so many guns and all this crazy fighting …
Oteri: … and violence …
Diaz: … Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Tom and Jerry.
Oteri: And even with cartoon kids now, the girls are looking like little hookers. In the cartoons, I can’t believe how they’re dressed.
Rudolph: They are whores.
Poehler: You’re getting old!
Oteri: Put a shirt on!
AP: What does “Shrek” say about our traditional notions of beauty?
Diaz: It’s amazing when I go into interviews. Yesterday, there were at least three or four people who said, “What’s it like playing such an ugly character?” I’m like, “What are you talking about? I think she’s beautiful.” It’s shocking to me that that’s the perception, just because she’s big and round. I think she’s lovely. Her body is everything that she is inside. I love that she is the princess who isn’t like all the other princesses. She doesn’t look like them, and she’s just as beloved and accepted.
Sedaris: Doesn’t she have knobs coming out of her neck?
Diaz: She does have the ears. I was worried that she might actually have like rows of teats, because she’s having a litter. It was a little fantasy of her like, laying on her side and having little baby legs sticking out.
AP: Are you all game for a fourth “Shrek” movie, and what do you hope your characters might be doing?
Oteri: Staying awake. Getting some dialogue. They’re like, “Cheri, you don’t say much in this movie,” and I’m like, “I didn’t know that.” But I’d love to do it again.
Rudolph: I feel like I botched my chance to do it again, because my character is such a jerk.
Poehler: No, it just made her interesting.
Rudolph: She needs to come back and make amends.
Poehler: And she needs to get a new wig.
AP: Amy, what would Cinderella be doing in the next movie?
Sedaris: Oh, gosh. Probably living alone, a junked-up junkie.
Diaz: We’ll all do an intervention.
Sedaris: Can you imagine Cinderella going, “You’re the one with the problem! You are! You’re the one with the problem!”
Diaz: I’m ready for “Shrek 18,” if they haven’t killed Fiona off by then.