First look: New ‘Shrek’ film premieres at Tribeca

NEW YORK — One thing hasn’t changed with “Shrek”: Puss in Boots still steals the show.

The fourth and supposedly final “Shrek” film, “Shrek Forever After,” premiered Wednesday night at the Tribeca Film Festival at New York’s Ziegfeld Theatre.

It was a glitzy affair for the film, the first in the franchise to be released in 3-D. Given the box-office boost 3-D films have seen — particularly since “Avatar” — the film’s studio, DreamWorks, expects a 3-D “Shrek” to be a hit, capping a franchise that already has earned more than $1 billion at the domestic box office.

“Shrek Forever After,” which will be released May 21, returns the voice cast of Mike Myers (Shrek), Cameron Diaz (Fiona), Eddie Murphy (Donkey) and Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots, the Zorro-like feline.

The film takes the shape of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” A mid-life crisis comes to Shrek, now a father of three, who laments the loss of his younger, wilder days as a fearsome ogre. The evil magician Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) makes a dubious deal with Shrek, the result being that Shrek was never born and never married Fiona.

The bizarro world Shrek encounters — something like the sideways shifts of ABC’s “Lost” — is a mishmash of mostly the familiar fairy tale characters, but with different twists of fate. The Gingerbread Man, so meek in previous “Shrek” movies, is now a kickboxing warrior.

Puss in Boots, too, has been inverted. In this “Shrek,” the debonair swashbuckler has turned out an obese house cat, too lazy to shoo a mouse drinking from his bowl. He doesn’t even have his namesake’s footwear.

The character, something of a sensation after his debut in “Shrek 2,” won many of the laughs at the premiere of “Shrek Forever After.”

Shortly before the premiere, Banderas said he believed the “Shrek” films have been popular because they’re enjoyed by both kids and parents — “but most especially by the parents.” He credited a loose atmosphere for the films’ tone.

“We are absolutely not conditioned to say the lines in a specific way, but they allow us to improvise a lot,” said Banderas. “I know that is not the method used in all animated movies.”

“Shrek Forever After” continues many of the familiar characteristics of the franchise — the pop song allusions, the fractured fairy-tale storytelling — but moviegoers can expect Puss in Boots to again be a memorable part of the experience.

The premiere was the opening night for the Tribeca Film Festival, which was co-founded by Robert De Niro. The festival, in its ninth year, runs through May 2.

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