Twelve years after the Shrek spinoff Puss in Boots, the cheeky Spanish cat, voiced by Antonio Banderas, has returned for another fairytale adventure, directed by Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado and written by Paul Fischer (with a story by Tommy Swerdlow and Tom Wheeler). Crawford, Mercado and Fischer all worked on DreamWorks animation favorites Trolls and Croods: A New Age, and the trio bring a similar “messy good” energy to Puss Boots: The Last Wish, which Remix a new series of well-known nursery rhymes and popular children’s fables into fun endings.
Our titular tabby lives the life of a swashbuckler, boozing leche, singing songs, saving towns, raking in worship and accolades as he dies his eighth death and lands it in his ninth and final life. Frightened by the visit of the fierce Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura), Puss decides to hang up his hat and boots and retire to the home of a crazy cat lady, Mama Luna (Da’Vine Joy Randolph).
But he cannot escape the adventure, and soon Puss becomes embroiled in the quest for a magical wish possessed by a greedy, pie-producing hoarder of enchanted trinkets, Little Jack Horner (John Mulaney). Do you remember him with the Christmas cake and the plum on his thumb? Jack, who is quite large now, is also being pursued by Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and her Cockney crime syndicate bear family (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman, Samson Kayo), who naturally have a desire to make things “just right”.
With his former flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and new puppy friend Perro (Harvey Guillén) joining the race to grant the wish, Puss learns to value his one precious life by finding a new friend or that Hatchet with Kitty Buried. This is all explained through quick, fun dialogue and therapy-like lessons delivered by a real life therapy dog. Happy Chihuahua Perro is more than happy to stop and smell the roses, and it turns out that’s a good way to get through this maze called life.
The irreverent twist on familiar characters makes Puss in Boots: The Last Wish entertaining (the fact that it doesn’t exceed its welcome at a brisk 1 hour and 40 minutes helps, too). What makes it great is the experimental and creative building of this world. The animation is dizzyingly fast and crisp, but it’s production design by Nate Wragg and artistic direction by Joseph Feinsilver that sets this film apart. The backgrounds that Puss and pals trot around reference Candyland and Francisco Goya, with a roughly hewn painterly quality that evokes a warm, appealing texture, as if you could see brushstrokes. Other settings include hallucinatory technicolor fantasy landscapes, while the big bad wolf’s angular lines and grayscale palette accentuate his bright red eyes, reminiscent of a noir graphic novel aesthetic.
Banderas’ purring puss has long been a popular “Shrek” character, and he has great chemistry with Hayek’s Kitty, but the rest of the cast also bring charismatic vocal performances, including Pugh, with her distinctive deep tone, and Moura (known for his role in “Narcos”), who makes his wolf uniquely scary. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a beautiful and dynamic fairy tale.
Katie Walsh is a film critic for the Tribune News Service.
“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish”
Duration: 1 hour 40 minutes
Rated: PG, for action/violence, rude humor/speech and some spooky moments
To play: Launches in general release on December 21st
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-12-20/review-puss-in-boots-last-wish-dreamworks-antonio-banderas “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” testifies to a love of life