Shrek effect: How Once Upon A Time mines fairy tales for laughs again

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

You can call it the Shrek effect: Updating and fracturing fairy tales as metaphors for modern life.

Well, MGM has tapped Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After) to direct its live-action fantasy Once Upon a Time, which does for Fairyland what Desperate Housewives did for suburbia.

Here's how Variety describes the movie:

The script by Charlie Vignola, Kevin Marcus and Bradley Marcus has Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty married to their handsome princes, the Charming brothers, and planning to live happily ever after, only to see their spouses go missing. The sisters-in-law set out to save their husbands and the fairy tale kingdom.

The trade paper goes out of its way to point out that MGM doesn't need to license the characters from Disney; they are in the public domain. Hollywood apparently needs a reminder that fairy tales predate the creator of Mickey Mouse.