Puss In Boots is a new animated feature spin-off from the Shrek films, and finds our diminutive feline hero, Puss, on his own adventure. Voices include Antonio Banderas returning as Puss, as well as Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Amy Sedaris, and Billy Bob Thornton as the other leads.
Puss ("In Boots!") is back, and this time he has his own adventure away from Shrek-land. Our hero has been tipped off about the whereabouts of the elusive magic beans, being held by the evil Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris, respectively). In order to capture them and grow the legendary stalk that will lead to the goose who lays golden eggs, Puss must join up with accomplices Kitty Soft Paws (Salma Hayek) and his old pal Humpty (Zach Galifianakis). But of course, things aren't quite that simple, and in his quest to simply complete the mission he unknowingly lands himself in peril with his cohorts.
There are familiar elements from the Shrek films that are certainly carried over. The world is thoroughly mixed in with a mashup of fairy tales, the focus is largely on the non-humans, and the humor often overreaches with stabs at innuendo. It's a similar formula to what all of modern computer animation is built on. And for the slim majority of the time, Puss In Boots works. But just barely.
It's interesting that, looking back, the film seems to be more focused on the action-adventure side of things than it is comedy. Sure, the world that the story is set in offers its own absurd humor by default. But beyond that, most scenes largely build up to chases and escapes from peril. The humor often feels like an afterthought, and because of this the pace tends to drag. There is a lot of backstory for the relationship between Puss and Humpty, so much so that their later escapes feel truncated and shallow. The humor could have been helped if they had just given Galifianakis a longer leash to improvise and have fun with Humpty. But here we have an animated comedy where all the leads seem to be playing the straight guy.
The saving grace is that the animation is quite lovely to look at. The detail on Puss and Kitty in particular is exquisite. In suitable contrast, the human characters come off as a bit more crude and blocky, but that's probably appropriate, as they're not really the focus of the film. The settings are also simply beautiful, and it's fun to take in the spectacle of it all. But just don't focus too much on the story or you'll be let down.
The picture here is extremely polished. As you'd expect from an all-digital (and all-virtual) production, everything looks immaculate. It's obvious that the animators spent a sizeable investment of time on the cats in the film, as closeups of Puss especially are rich with detail and feline authenticity. Colors are rich, and all the film's environments from the desert southwest to the more fantastical cloud city are wonderfully lighted, and show rich black levels in low light scenes. This is a fantastic looking picture.