Movie Review: Puss in Boots The Last Wish
Rating: 2 and 1/2 Stars
Once upon a time, the year was 2011 and four Shrek movies had finally run their course. The last salvo was fired when Dreamworks Animation released a Shrek spinoff featuring Puss in Boots, the beloved feline originally appearing in Shrek 2. It was a movie I know I watched but couldn’t tell you anything about.
Dreamworks Animation has always been the family movie animation alternative to Disney and Disney’s Pixar. Pixar chases captivating storytelling. Disney proper seeks boatloads of money. Dreamworks tries out concepts to varying degrees of mediocrity and on rare occasions, success.
They’ve built mini franchises around non-Shrek entities such as How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, and Madagascar. Still, I’d imagine deep inside their executive offices, the suits gather around and wonder what they can do to set themselves apart from the competition.
Dreamworks has no issues making good movies. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a good movie. At times I felt this film might be the reawakening the Shrek franchise could be searching for. There are several effective character arcs. Puss goes through an intervention and is reinvented as a character over the course of the film. There’s story and graphical design creativity on display but unfortunately the consistency wasn’t fluid throughout the film.
The issue wasn’t pacing as the movie was cut to a brisk hour and 40 minutes. There is an overlong musical number that opens the film that’s catchy but nothing special.
The premise of The Last Wish is simple. Puss in Boots is down to his last life and is being pursued by death which manifests itself in a quite jarring fashion. There was definitely potential for The Last Wish to invoke some Brothers Grimm-esque dark themes and imagery if it so wanted. Directors Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado opt not to.
They do however inject some light Hispanic flavor through the language and the music. Banderas reprises his vocal role as Puss in Boots while Salma Hayek returns as his femme fatale love interest, Kitty Softpaws.
The emotional center of the film is ironically played by a dog voiced wonderfully by Harvey Guillen. Puss meets the abandoned dog at Mama Luna’s crazy cat lady shelter. Puss ignores the “perro” but the pup insists and follows Puss when he learns of a magic wishing star that could grant him his lives back.
The star is highly sought after by Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) who has befriended the three bears and become a crime syndicate. Jack Horner (John Mulaney) of nursery rhyme fame then enters the picture with a dastardly plan to wish for all the magic in the world. Let the race for the wishing star begin.
Puss reluctantly teams up with Kitty and Perro with a magical map in hand that leads to the star. The map has a colorful catch that alters the obstacles to the star depending on who is looking at the map. The battle for the map leads to some creative scene settings and occasional scene shifting.
There are humorous moments and one-liners but there is a share of laugh lines that utterly fall flat. Jack Horner encounters a Jiminy Cricket impersonator that doesn’t mesh well with Horner’s insistent cruel evil persona. Their banter is rather uninspired.
Both directors, Crawford and Mercado are new to the scene. Crawford’s only major directorial credit prior is The Croods: The New Age. One of the two writers, Tommy Swerdlow, has a screenplay credit for Cool Runnings and a small role in Spaceballs!
The biggest swing the film takes is with its varied art style. Particularly the cel-shading has its moments where it adds fabulous detail and makes some fight scenes pop with an anime-like quality. There’s an apparent inconsistency though as the cel-shading fades in and out which I found detracting when my eyes were trying to figure out what to focus on. I have yet to see Into the Spiderverse but the clips I have seen show more consistent use of their art style. Puss in Boots likely took some inspiration from there but didn’t fully commit.
There was one particular instant in The Last Wish that I found exceedingly heartwarming involving Perro and Puss. You’ll know when you see it. If you are a dog-lover, it may be worth a watch because the film earns the emotion it generates here. It may be the dog-lover in me, but I’d wager to say it’s the best scene in the film.