The new film from DreamWorks is a surprisingly heartfelt tale, and a welcome comeback for the Shrek franchise.
Puss In Boots: The Last Wish brings forth the triumphant return of Antonio Banderas’s iconic Shrek character, Puss in Boots, as he is faced with the shocking revelation that he has managed to blow through eight out of his nine cat lives. In an attempt to prolong this last life, Puss swears off any more adventuring. That is, until he realizes that he is being hunted by Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, and Samson Kayo). Through their attempts to find him, they end up revealing a Wishing Star that Puss believes will grant him more lives. He sets off with his new friend, Perrito (a beyond charming Harvey Guillén), and his old lover, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), to find the Wishing Star and get Puss’s lives back.
While the first two Shrek films are arguably cinematic classics (the first Shrek film made Academy Award history as the first film to win Best Animated Feature, and was recently inducted into the National Film Registry), pretty much any Shrek film or spin off since has been a disappointment, including the first Puss in Boots film. However, this movie smashes through any cynical expectation. The animation style is visually lovely, as it at least appears as a blend of 2D and 3D animation, allowing for the more mystical and fairytale-like aura of the film to be all the more apparent.
The voice cast is simultaneously well-stacked and well-utilized in this film, with Banderas maintaining the same level of charm and suave naiveté to Puss as he did in his first appearance in Shrek 2 nearly 20 years ago. Hayek makes a welcome return as her character from the first Puss in Boots film, and her chemistry with Banderas is apparent even just through the voice work. However, the newcomers to this franchise are the real standouts. Florence Pugh does a fantastic job as Goldilocks, playing her character with a level of grit and heart that makes her a far cry from the traditional portrayal of the porridge-stealing fiend, but the modern take is welcome and much more fun. Likewise, Colman, Winstone, and Kayo bring an equal amount of fun and mischief to their scrappier Three Bears. However, the biggest standout is Harvey Guillén as Perrito, Puss’s new cat-posing therapy dog friend. To boast significantly fewer credits than his costars, Guillén makes a huge wave in this film, giving Perrito such a level of adorable earnestness, that will likely make him an iconic character in the Shrek canon.
The storyline of this film is also much deeper and more existential than previous Shrek films. All of Puss’s motivations are driven by a sudden awareness of mortality, and he spends the majority of the film fearing what death means, and having to come to terms with parts of his past that he is not proud of, including his selfish tendencies. In the end, Puss comes to terms with his own mortality (though, spoiler alert, he doesn’t die, don’t worry!), and agrees to turn over a new leaf in his approach to life. It’s a much deeper theme than one would expect out of an animated film of this caliber, but it’s all the more evidence of the ways in which this film absolutely obliterates any expectations that one may have for it.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a welcome addition to the Shrek universe, and a brilliant comeback for the franchise. While this film can certainly be deemed as the surprise hit of the year, its gorgeous animation style, coupled with a loaded voice cast and complex story, certainly make an argument for why it may even deserve the very prize first won by its originator.
Likely: Best Animated Feature
Should be Considered: Best Animated Feature
Release Date: December 21, 2022
Where to Watch: Select Theaters
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
Leave a Reply