The last time I enjoyed a Shrek movie was in 2004 when the second one came out. Ever since then it was Shrek overload and the franchise was toast in my opinion. When I saw that they were making a Puss in Boots spinoff from the series, I groaned out loud in the theater and literally screamed out, “Dear Lord, let it go! Stop trying to squeeze blood from this stone!” And that’s from a cat lover too! Although Dreamworks has made some very quality animated movies in the past, I had rock-bottom expectations for this movie and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed it as much as I did.
Yes, it’s true that Antonio Banderas is back voicing the titular character, but aside from that, there is nothing that links this film to the Shrek movies. That might be a good thing. It was almost as if the makers of Puss in Boots know full-well that the Shrek movies have run their course and making those characters show up again would be a mistake. So what we’re left with is a totally separate movie about the origin of Puss in Boots.
Joining him in this new adventure is a fellow feline named Kitty Soft Paws and Humpty Dumpty; voiced by Selma Hayek (Dogma, From Dusk Till Dawn) and Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover films). The three of them are on a mission to redeem their reputations among the citizens of their hometown by stealing the Golden Goose from the Giant at the top of the beanstalk. We have all the makings of a fun (albeit familiar) adventure story though storybook land, but the action is quite lopsided with very few and disappointing sequences rounding out the ending.
Luckily, the film is funny enough to have that error keep you from being bored. The same writing team are back with the same style of adult innuendo that made the first two Shrek films so enjoyable. Unfortunately, there aren’t any characters that are as likable as Donkey and Shrek, but the cuteness of Puss and Kitty are adorable enough to offer a pass.
The animation in the film is also well done enough to keep you from glancing down at your watch. It might be some of the best animation that Dreamworks has put out since How To Train Your Dragon. The colors are vibrant and human characters look more realistic than ever. (I can’t comment on the 3D aspect of it since it wasn’t offered when I saw it.)
There were some pleasant surprises in Puss in Boots that I didn’t expect. First was that it was produced by director/writer Guellermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone) and he voiced one of the minor characters too. It seems as if Del Toro is getting involved in more and more family animation entertainment, which is quite a departure from his fantastical horror that he does so well. Another hidden enjoyment was the soundtrack. The Shrek films also feature great songs by talented artists that you’d normally not pick for a children’s movie and Puss in Boots is no exception. The end credits feature a great song by Lady Gaga and the movie features several selections by the very talented Rodrigo y Gabriella.
Director Chris Miller should be pleased with himself for what he created in Puss in Boots. Sure he may be the guy that directed the Shrek films into the ground and over the shark, and Puss in Boots isn’t good enough to forgive him for that; but it’s enjoyable enough that I would consider it a good start…as long as I don’t see a Puss in Boots 2 coming soon.
Puss in Boots (Rated PG )
Gavin Grade: B