‘Puss In Boots: The Last Wish’ | Movie Review
Just when we thought we wouldn’t be hearing from our favorite characters from the “Shrek” universe, we are presented with a visit from the breakout supporting character from the first “Shrek” film, the swashbuckling hero Puss in Boots, voiced once again by Antonio Banderas, who is better than ever.
It’s been a decade or so since we’ve heard from Puss and in this story, he is still swashbuckling and defying death – until he realizes that he’s used up most of his nine lives. In fact, he’s on his last one. Toying with the idea of retirement and the safety of an assisted living facility, Puss meets a new friend Perro (the fantastic Harvey Guillen) who, as a downtrodden and cast-off canine, masquerades as a cat in order to survive.
When Puss learns of a plan by other fairy tale characters to find the “Wishing Star,” he comes out of retirement and joins the search, intending to find the star and ask for another nine lives. Along the way, he tangles with the mercenary gang of Goldilocks (a superb Florence Pugh) and her foster family, the Three Bears (Olivia Coleman, Ray Winstone and Samson Kayo). If this foursome wasn’t enough to contend with, Puss also has to be concerned with the likes of Big Jack Horner (no longer little and voiced by John Mulaney) and his band of thugs, the Baker’s Dozen. He also runs into his former love interest and adversary Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault). Yet all of these opponents and nemeses don’t seem to faze Puss.
He is pursued by a large gray wolf with sickles, red eyes and an ominous tune he continuously whistles; a tune which seems to weaken and frighten Puss. The wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura of “The Grey Man”) seems to be on a relentless pursuit of Puss and his last life.
Even in the midst of the victories Puss has throughout the film, the wolf, whom we will call “Death,” is always lurking.
Lurking and reminding.
With quite a bit of story packed into 100 minutes, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” is a movie for all ages. The gags are funny, with extra kudos to Guillen for his scene stealing work as Perro, sure to be a new favorite in the world of cartoon sidekicks.
The sequences where he regurgitates the rude words he’s been called as a cast-off mutt are priceless, complete with bleeps for his more profane monikers.
Pugh is amazing as well, providing incredible depth as the multi-dimensional Goldilocks; not easy to do with a cartoon character.
But as expected, the title feline runs the show. As I said, Banderas is fantastic as ever, this time showing us more depth and vulnerability as the hero faces his own mortality.
And really, that’s what this film ends up being about: facing our mortality. A somewhat grievous topic for a cartoon, it’s evident the audience of the original “Shrek” may have grown up. Still, even with the focus on facing our own limits, the more positive message of “one life is enough if it’s well-lived” shines through.
There’s a lot of action and a visually stunning marriage of 2D drawings with computer-generated animation, plus fast-paced sequences that will sometimes make your head spin as if you are inside a video game, comic book or fireworks display. In fact, there are even a couple of fireworks displays in the film. Go figure.
And as all clever stories end, this one measures up and promises more adventures to come. Smart.
Take the family on a holiday outing and see this film at the theaters. You’ll all enjoy it – especially if you don’t think too much about the underlying messages.
My grade: A
“Puss In Boots: The Last Wish” opens in theaters Dec. 21 and runs 1 hour,40 minutes. It’s rated PG for rude humor, a little language, violence and a few scary moments for little ones.