Drawing inspiration from a classic Sergio Leone film, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is the long-awaited sequel to the 2011 Shrek spin-off.
Audiences had a chance to catch a sneak preview over Thanksgiving weekend. Similarly, Critics Choice Association members had the opportunity to do the same by way of digital screener. I never got around to watching the first film but I caught both in a double feature on Thanksgiving Eve. This one is definitely darker than the first Puss in Boots. This second film feels very different compared to the first one. Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) finds himself on another adventure with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) but he’s facing death–aka the big bad Wolf (Wagner Moura)–in the face this time around. Wolf will almost certainly lead to families having the conversation with their kids. This is a character who wants to bring Puss to his death.
Living a life free of fear is something that will take its toll on felines. Early on in the film. Puss finds himself dying for the 8th time and is told to essentially retire, If you know this outlaw feline, it’s impossible to do so. And yet, it’s what sees him going along for the journey with Kitty and therapy dog scene-stealing Perrito (Harvey Guillén) into the Black Forest to find the the Wishing Star. As is typical on such a quest, they are not the only ones looking to make a wish. Goldi (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears Crime Family (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo) are also on the trail. Jack Horner (John Mulaney) and his purple thumb is, too. He’s not so little these days but he has his own agenda.
It is to the great credit of DreamWorks Animation and the filmmakers, we find Puss in Boots in quite the predicament. If he can’t be this great fearless adventurer, what then is his identity? It’s everything that defines him, which is what makes the existential crisis such an interesting approach. Going into the film, I had an idea of the five films that I would nominate for Best Animated Feature. Here it is, DreamWorks comes running to say, wait! They bring audiences a mix of thrills, comedy, drama, and wonders. The film needs the comedy in order to help offset the darker dramatic approach. I’m not lying when I say this film gets dark. We’re talking about the Big Bad Wolf as a bounty hunter!
One thing to appreciate about the film’s visual style is what they’re doing to elevate animation. It is a CGI film on one level but at the same time, they design it like a book of fairy tales. The imagery is so beautiful when you’re looking out to the horizon. Of course, this is something that audiences will be able to better catch on the big screen than watching at home.
There’s been talk of Shrek 5 for so many years that the teaser is a sight for sore eyes. It’s not heavy on Shrek easter egg but you know them when you see them. The film otherwise remains its own thing. I can’t wait to see DreamWorks Animation take us back to FAR FAR AWAY! But I digress.
Imagine Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as an animated film and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is exactly what it would look like.
DIRECTOR: Joel Crawford
CO-DIRECTOR: Januel P. Mercado
SCREENWRITERS: Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow
CAST: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek Pinault, Olivia Colman, Harvey Guillén, Samson Kayo, Wagner Moura, Anthony Mendez, John Mulaney, Florence Pugh, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ray Winstone
DreamWorks Animation will release Puss in Boots: The Last Wish in theaters on December 21, 2022. Grade: 4/5
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