During a party after the liberation of the town of Del Mar, Puss In Boots [Banderas], is struck by both his own hubris and a giant bell.. which kills him. Upon revival the doctor warns him that his life of adventuring must come to an end, as Puss is down to the last of his nine lives. Puss scoffs at the suggestion but is later approached by a mysterious bounty hunter wolf [Moura] who disarms the cat, draws blood and says he will pursue him until his final days. Feeling legitimate fear for seemingly the first time, Puss abandons his sword and flees. Taking refuge in a cat sanctuary, Puss spends several years safe but miserable. It’s there that he meets an excessively naïve and friendly dog named Perrito [Guillén] and Goldilocks [Pugh] and the three bears arrive to hire him to steal a map leading to the last magic wishing star; which is currently in the clutches of pie mogul Big Jack Horner [Mulaney]. Seeing an opportunity to wish back his nine lives, Puss dons his old mantle and sets out on one last adventure, all the while conscious that his old ways will cause him to cross paths with the wolf.
Puss In Boots: The Last Wish is the sixth instalment in the Shrek franchise – which has been frankly stale since the early 2000s and essentially dormant since the fairly forgettable Puss In Boots spin-off from twelve years ago. And while that should spell doom for this entire release, it actually provides a powerful breath of fresh air, offering plenty of exciting madcap, carefree swashbuckling adventure, which neatly gives way to hubris and genuinely earned sentimentality. And the decision to sidestep from fairytales to legends (casting a critical lens over tales of adventurous lone gunslingers) is fantastic. Because, much like the first Shrek, these films work best when lampooning and pastiching entire genres, as well as lovingly celebrating the tropes and styles – as with the Kung Fu Panda films.
Another key factor to Puss In Boots’ success are the choices made from an animation perspective. Stepping away from the traditional realistic look in-line with the rest of the franchise, we are given wonderfully creative, exciting, vibrant animation that goes beyond the standard plasticy CGI fare. In fact, the whole style picks up the baton from Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse. Granted, it never goes full-pelt in terms of the detail or envelope pushing that Sony’s animated Spider-Man feature does, but it injects enough to make it stand on its own two booted feet. With delightfully expressive character animations, glorious scene transitions, and a magnificent attention to frame rate, switching between 24 and 12fps as the action picks up. On top of this, Brazilian composer Heitor Pereira has crafted a truly rollicking score, with a first-rate mix of styles: combining Latin guitars, ominous strings, thundering brass and epic vocal-led Spaghetti Western ballads.
Thematically, the film is also incredibly strong, addressing the trappings of masculinity, which make Puss incapable of processing the fear of death and commitment. With this in mind, it’s clear the movie’s heart and energy are in the right place. Furthermore, despite being both a spin-off and a sequel, the writers have done an impressive job of acknowledging that the film’s primary demographic weren’t alive when the other films were released and this could be their introduction to the franchise.
There is, however, one huge glaring drawback that knocks it down from a solid 5/5: disconnected clutter. See, for all the intrepid hijinks, all the undercutting comedy nonsense from Perrito, and the bickering between Puss and Kitty Softpaws [Hayek Pinault] – there’s still more movie crammed in. Because on top of this, the story adds, essentially, three groups of villains, ultimately juggling too many character threads and arcs. We have the ever-looming presence of the wolf, Jack Horner chasing after his map with the fury of Immortan Joe, and Goldilocks and the three bears with their own separate subplot that sometimes competes for main narrative thread dominance. Now, that’s not to say these characters are grossly mishandled but jostling between them leaves them semi-underdeveloped at times. Which is unfortunate.
As both a standalone family action feature and a return to the Shrek-adjacent-universe, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish manages to charm and entertain in equal measure, placing itself as one of the best of the six outings.
03 February 2023
The Scene To Look Out For:
The initial heist in Jack Horner’s factory and subsequent escape through town, is genuinely standout. It’s one of the times that the film manages to get a firm grasp on all the central characters and themes, and acts as the perfect example of what is capable by combining the painterly style, shifting frame-rate, and bombastic freeze-frames.
As the film rolls on, it transpires that the wolf is more than some bounty hunter. He is in fact death. To quote the character directly “Death. And I don’t mean it metaphorically, or rhetorically, or poetically, or theoretically, or in any other fancy way. I’m death. Straight up.” And it’s a glorious villainous portrayal of the personification of the reaper. Visually terrifying, physically overbearing and menacingly voiced, he’s an ethereal presence straight out of a spaghetti western; the kind of role you’d expect to be voiced by Lee Van Cleef were he still alive. But Moura steps into the role with gusto and presence that reverberates throughout the entire film.
“Yeah, Puss In Boots walks alone. Was the legend so big, there was no room for anyone else?”
In A Few Words:
“A wonderfully fun and surprisingly sincere, visually creative adventure”
Total Score: 4/5