In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as mediocre amongst the Pixar catalogue. But alas, every few years, John Lasseter wants to deliver another Cars film. While DreamWorks may be better known for throwing a few clunkers our way, the last few years have been mighty kind. Maybe it’s losing all those coveted Best Animated Feature Oscars along the way. Not that this weekend’s Puss in Boots will completely change that but it’s continuing in the right direction.
All that aside, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it every time: as of now, so long as DreamWorks isn’t trolling out another Shrek film, they seem to do mighty fine. Looking back over their list of films since Shrek premiered just over ten years ago they’re actually doing way better than I make it sound. The only true stinkers being Shark Tale, and the last two Shrek films, Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After.
When you notice the director of Puss in Boots is none other than Chris Miller, the director of Shrek the Third (arguably one of the worst DreamWorks feature thus far), it gives cause for alarm. Can he pull a nice little trick out of his hat and deliver the prequel we’ve been waiting for since Puss made his first appearance back in 2004’s Shrek 2? We all know Puss has been the best thing to happen to that entire franchise so it was only a matter of time before his tale was finally told.
Puss in Boots works as an origin story, but keeps the film within the fractured Shrek fairy tale land while never sinking so low as to even conjure up any of those films’ characters. Puss (voiced by Antonio Banderas) has his own tale to be told. Here we find that as a young kitten, he is placed within an orphanage in San Ricardo, where he quickly befriends Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis). The two aspire to grow up and escape the confines of said orphanage to fulfill Humpty’s dreams of finding Jack’s magical beans that lead to a giant castle where the golden goose lies ripe for the taking if they can get it past the Great Terror.
There’s also a subplot involving Jack (voiced by Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (voiced by Amy Sedaris), who already have possession of the magical beans, as well as one with Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek). Will Puss and Kitty find love amongst the betrayal and swash buckling? Can Humpty and Puss make nice and get over their sordid past involving a bank heist where Humpty is left on a bridge to be imprisoned? Can a film filled to the brim with cat jokes continue the funny for a brisk 90 minutes? Find out all this and much much more because the cat’s out of the bag on this one.
With a surprisingly minimal four credited writers (Brian Lynch, David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler, Jon Zack), including an uncredited rewrite from executive producer Guillermo del Toro, the Puss in Boots team have delivered and then some. I had high hopes for this entry in the Shrek canon but was yet to be convinced. And if it wasn’t for Rango and Kung Fu Panda 2 already having been released, they’d have a mighty fine chance at winning that coveted Oscar for this one. However, DreamWorks now has a fighting chance with two possible nominations where Pixar may not even receive one (“Ohhh,” as one Puss character may say).
Charles Perrault’s timeless character is finally given his due, and so are we as one of the year’s flat out hilarious films, along with one of the most action packed, has arrived.
Photos courtesy DreamWorks Animation