Say what you will about the Tribeca Film Festival, but organizers are always trying something new, particularly with their showcase slots. The festival attempted an unconventional opening night of environmental shorts a few years ago, when "An Inconvenient Truth" was swimming in the cultural waters. It also, at the other end of the spectrum, was willing to become part of the global barnstorming tour for "Mission: Impossible III," a decision few other festivals were bold enough to make.
But the news that DreamWorks Animation's "Shrek Forever After" will actually open the festival sits a little funny. For one thing, in recent years, Tribeca has opened with rigorous pieces from acclaimed filmmakers (Paul Greengrass' "United 93," in a mourner-attended premiere that was among the most intense film experiences we've ever had) or at least pieces from acclaimed filmmakers (Woody Allen's "Whatever Works").
The move also seems to be coming a beat late, with Cannes last year already grabbing much of the thunder for a big animated, 3D opening with "Up" (which, as a piece of original work instead of a four-quel, also didn't quite have the cloud of merchandising hanging so heavily over it).
Finally, the New Yorker in us feels compelled to gently note that the festival's opening-night film has historically tended to include a Gotham slant (e.g., the "Saturday Night Live"-colored "Baby Mama"). An explanatory quote from festival founder Jane Rosenthal, God bless her, feels a little shaky. (“We have always sought to open our festival with films that are captivating and strike an emotional chord with moviegoers.")
A centerpiece slot -- which, notably, it steered away from studio franchises last year -- might have been a perfect place for the new "Shrek." The festival has slotted far more dubious sequels in those slots -- like "Spider-Man 3" dubious. (It also put M:I III" there.) But wasting a venue that can be, and often is, used for original or chancy work on a "Shrek" four-quel seems a bit misguided and has us feeling a little ... green.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Image: "Shrek Forever After" poster. Credit: DreamWorks Animation