Movie Review: ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’

Director: Joel Crawford

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayak, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winston, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura

Plot: Puss in Boots discovers that he’s on the last of his nine lives, and retires from being a famed adventurer to avoid the stream of bounty hunters looking to cash in from his capture. Puss is inspired to go reenter the fray when he, and various other miscreants, race to reach a long rumoured fallen star that will grant any one wish.

Review: It’s been more than ten years since we saw a cinema release from the once golden Shrek franchise. Antonio Banderas has come back at full force, clearly having an absolute ball playing the dashing and dangerous outlaw, which is the only reason why they would use this spin-off series to reignite interest in the characters. The original Puss in Boots, the fifth film in the franchise, felt bland and tired in spite of the colourful characters, it’s possible this new entry exists to test the waters of audience interest before bringing back the other three main characters. If that’s the case, it’s surprising that this is easily one of the best adventures they’ve created.

Puss in Boots in an inherently cool character. Making him the focus of a story is tricky, however, because there’s not much you can do to develop the character without detracting from what makes him work. The movie opens with an exploration of what Puss in Boots is left with when his gimmicks and stories are stripped away. It’s far from being a character study, but the lead roles are all layered enough to be more interesting than the usual Shrek characters. The setting contributes a great deal to the pace of the movie, as the Dark Forest that makes up most of the adventure. As different characters take hold of the map, the obstacles on the path change to challenge their own fears and insecurities. It’s an easy and interesting way to explore the characters competing for this one wish.

Joining Puss in Boots on his journey are Kitty Softpaws (Hayek), who plays a competitive foil against Puss, and Perrito (Guillén), a wannabe therapy dog with a good soul. Crosses paths with our trio are three other factions. First up is Goldilocks and the Three Bears (Pugh, Colman, Winston and Kayo), a cockney crime family looking to make things ‘just right’. They’re the blunt force to the cat’s deftness. Big Jack Horner (Mulaney) is a spoilt sociopath whose workers live in fear, and he’s packing a Mary Poppins carpet bag filled with magical artefacts to give him an edge. Finally, there’s the Big Bad Wolf (Moura), a seemingly supernatural bounty hunter who has been pursuing Puss with the intention of claiming his last life. The Bears are fun and have an emotional edge, Jack Horner is someone you love to hate, but this final figure is downright scary. His red eyes, sadistic hunting of Puss and sickles are pretty intense for the tone of the film, and he represents a dark topic for a family animated movie.

There’s been some evolution to the animation style of the series. Although the bulk of the film retains a similar design and animation style to the previous films, there are moments that look influenced by the recent success of Into the Spider-Verse, complete with a flattened style and lower frame rate. At times we’d see the usual characters interacting with the more stylised backgrounds, and it is sometimes distracting. Overall, we like the new storybook looking aspects of the film. It suits the over-the-top approach Puss has to his personal retellings of his exploits.

We had a real good time with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. It’s a neat adventure with fun characters and talented voice actors. It largely abandons the franchise continuity, which we’re fine with, but we get the feelings that any success seen here will green light a new Shrek-centric film. We also get a children’s animated trope that always irks me – referencing R-Rated movies that pre-date the parents bringing their kids to the cinema. Apocalypse Now came out before the target audience’s parents were born, who is this for? There’s a weird cycle of references that are now only being recognised from previous references.

That’s a very specific nitpick. This is a fun movie, enjoy it.

Rating: SEVEN out of TEN