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Review: 'Puss in Boots: The Last Wish'

Edited as of Fri 13 Jan 2023 - 06:28
Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (7 votes)

pussinbootsthelastwish.jpgLet's start at the beginning.

Before Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, even. How about DreamWorks Animation's new studio bumper? It's a bit ostentatious, even a bit overly pleased with itself. Maybe goes on a little long. But, then again, what studio bumper doesn't, nowadays? But, being a celebration of DreamWorks past triumphs, it's interesting to note what franchises were chosen to be spotlighted.

Right out the gate, the Bad Guys are getting quite a vote of confidence, despite being the new guys with one movie under their belts. So I think it's safe to say we're getting a sequel. Also for furries, the Kung Fu Panda series is featured, and we already know that's got a fourth movie coming. The How To Train Your Dragon series is also represented by Toothless, despite the fact that the last movie came to a very decisive story end. It's one of the more acclaimed franchises of DreamWorks, so it has to show up, and even if there are no more movies, smaller screen spinoffs are still happening. There are also appearances by the Trolls and Boss Baby franchises, but they aren't furry, so who cares?

There are some notable absences, however. Despite featuring four movies, the Madagascar franchise is ignored. Spirit, you know, the one with the horse? That somehow managed two movies, but is apparently not an ongoing concern. And obviously, the Shrek franchise is prominently featured, but the star of the movie we're about to actually start reviewing is not. Maybe he'll show up in the bumper for movies he's not the star of?

Well, anyway, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is the sequel to 2011's Puss in Boots, which itself is a spinoff of the aforementioned Shrek franchise. The titular character Puss has been voiced by Antonio Banderas in all theatrical releases since Shrek 2. Puss in Boots seems to have taken place before at least Shrek 2, chronologically, while this movie seems to be the last movie in the current timeline of the series, if that even really matters to anyone. Joel Crawford takes over as director, with previous director's credit on The Croods: A New Age. Outside of Puss, the only returning character is Kitty Softpaws, voiced by Salma Hayek, Puss's literal cat burglar love interest.

Puss gains a new traveling companion, a little dog voiced by Harvey Guillén, who, despite being an unloved and abandoned orphan, is always cheery, upbeat and optimistic. Puss meets and is unable to get rid of this dog while hiding out from what he believes are bounty hunters out to get him, dead or alive, for crimes that are never specified, and which Puss is probably innocent of, if the first movie is any indication. He mostly seems to spend his time being generally heroic or helping Shrek plan his children's birthday parties rather than anything malicious or criminal. But anyway, he's wanted dead or alive for something, and he's recently lost his eighth life, meaning he's on his last life.

There ends up being no actual bounty hunters chasing him. Goldilocks (voiced by Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Ray Winstone as Papa, Olivia Colman as Mama and Samson Kayo as an adult Baby) are amateur criminals actually looking to recruit Puss on a score to gain a Wishing Star. Their first choice was actually Kitty Softpaws, but she double-crossed them to gain the map to the star for herself. Puss ends ups teaming with her, hoping to gain the star and wish for his eight lost lives back.

Puss was at first not super taken aback by the fact he's on his last life, but an encounter with what he took to be just another bounty hunting talking wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura) put the fear of death in him. This wolf, wielding a pair of scythes and an eerie whistle, stays on Puss's trail, though he has no interest in the Wishing Star, or the bounty, for that matter. Let's just say he gives new meaning to the phrase "anthropomorphic personification". Note that a version of the Three Bears and a Big Bad Wolf have appeared in previous Shrek movies, but the Three Bears especially are working on a "it's been two decades since that background joke, everyone's forgot, right?" premise. The Big Bad Wolf is a recurring character in the Shrek main series, however, but the wolf of The Last Wish is obviously not that character.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears have their own side story, involving common DreamWorks thematic elements of orphans and adoptions, while the wolf is not necessarily evil, either, being a bit beyond simple morality. The real villain of the piece is the former Little Jack Horner of the nursery rhyme, now known as Big Jack Horner, voiced by John Mulaney. Jack (which is actually the second villainous Jack Puss has encountered) is a spoiled rich kid who inherited a pastry empire and uses his unearned funds to collect magical artifacts and now wants the Wishing Star to wish for all the remaining magic in the world in one go. Between Jack and the villain of the recent Glass Onion, it seems Hollywood was ready for Elon Musk's final heel revelation late last year.

Compared to Puss in Boots back in 2011, 2022's The Last Wish has a much more stylized animation style. While the 2011 movie strove for a near realistic look (or, at least, as realistic a movie about a talking cat and talking egg teaming up could look), The Last Wish features a consciously painterly look (the fur of the Three Bears literally look like they were painted on). The colors are much more saturated, with Puss's orange tabby fur making his green eyes pop, which are more of a lime green this time around, rather than the emerald of the 2011 movie. Fight scenes are especially stylized, with notable cutting of frames to give the movement a "ramped" up look, like a 2000s era action movie. The most interesting thing about this it that while it seems like a decade of stylistic changes are being made, most of the trends being followed here have only become really noticeable in the last couple of years, as the hyper-realistic style was the main mode of American CGI for most of the 2010s.

This movie is a lot of fun, it looks great, and there are a lot of interesting ideas floating just under the surface here. Jack Horner is a wonderful villain, the wolf is an incredibly dark element to throw into the mix, and Kitty's relationship with Puss is surprisingly mature. I'd also say it's the best Pinocchio movie of the year, with a running gag involving a judgmental cricket character (a bit inexplicably given a Jimmy Stewart parody voice), even a cameo by the Shrek version of Pinocchio, and a beginning that you can tell wants to quote "When You Wish Upon A Star" just so bad, but like Disney's going to let them do that.

The movie has to make due with the "Fairytale" theme from Shrek, which was, in the beginning, just a set up to a butt-wiping joke and Smash Mouth, after all. Still pretty good, though.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

I'm a bit over wolves always being baddies in these type of movies, but when it's done well, I'll allow it. And boy did this movie deliver. It's snappy, fun, emotional, hilarious, tense, and everything else I forgot to mention. It just works on many levels. And the wolf is one of the best antagonists to come out of an animated movie in a long time. Legitimately scary but also deeply relevant to the surprisingly mature themes and character development.

Essentially, this movie got everything right with the wolf that Sing 2 got wrong with Jimmy Crystal (among other things).

Your rating: None

The really cool thing about the wolf in this film is he is who he is from his first appearance to his last and yet, by the end, your perception of him flips 180 degrees. While Puss certainly fears him, and that fear drives a lot of the action of the film, the wolf really isn't evil or the villain.

Your rating: None

"a running gag involving a judgmental cricket character (a bit inexplicably given a Jimmy Stewart parody voice)..."

I thought that was a clever, and resonant touch: Stewart almost always represented down-home basic decency and common sense in his characters, quite appropriate for a conscience. (Even if you don't recognize the parody, his voice still conveys those qualities.)

- Joe

Your rating: None

This is a wonderful film. One of Dreamwork's best as far as story and screenplay and absolutely the best animation they've ever done. In that regard, they just curb stomped Pixar as far as I'm concerned. For enjoyment and entertainment, this delivered far more of both than that mess that is the Avatar sequel.

Your rating: None

Believe or not, I am the guy who made that long list of potential Ursa Major competitors earlier this year.

When I made that, I was imagining that Puss in Boots 2, at best, would be considered "good" or "better than I thought it was going to be." I did not expect people to say "best movie of 2022" or "this movie made me cry."

Because of that, I do think that not only are the chances of this getting nominated for an Ursa Major are guaranteed, but it might also actually be the big winner.

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (2 votes)

I wonder if it may have a good shot at the Annie (I'm serious, it does everything GDT's Pinocchio does except better, hasn't spent the last couple months backhanding the competition/setting up a backlash, and DreamWorks still has a solid contingent within the Annie voting body) which might make it a spoiler at the Oscars, giving Turning Red the win.

At the Ursas, it's got "new hotness", so that might take it over The Bad Guys, but I'm not counting that movie out, yet, either. I haven't seen a movie embed itself in e621 quite the way that movie has since, well, Zootopia. After all, while Puss in Boots has a hunky wolf, The Bad Guys has a hunky wolf and a sexy vixen. That's not a bad combo for the Ursas!

Your rating: None

Somehow I don't think they will care one way or the other, but yeah.

Your rating: None

I suspect the reason "Spirit" wasn't included in Dreamworks' extended logo is that film is 2D, and just like Pablo, we don't talk about 2D anymore. Also interesting, logo-wise, is the fishing boy is never rendered as a 3-dimensional human, just a glowing, flat symbol.

- Joe

Your rating: None

I forgot I did this, but I watched all the DreamWorks movies before I Puss in Boots: The Last Wish just like I did all the Disney movies last year before Raya and the Last Dragon. (Half-hearted Twitter thread here!) Note I did not count Joseph: King of Dreams as it was direct to video, though sometimes listed. Anyway, rankings:

43. Shark Tale
42. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarraon
41. The Road to El Dorado
40. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
39. Bee Movie
38. Shrek the Third
37. Rise of the Guardians
36. Turbo
35. Trolls World Tour
34. Spirit Untamed
33. Monsters vs. Aliens
32. Home
31. Mr. Peabody and Sherman
30. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
29. Flushed Away
28. Trolls
27. The Boss Baby
26. Abominable
25. The Boss Baby: Family Business
24. Over the Hedge
23. Madagascar
22. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
21. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
20. Chicken Run
19. Antz
18. Shrek Forever After
17. Penguins of Madagascar
16. The Croods: A New Age
15. The Croods
14. Shrek 2
13. Wallace and Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
12. Shrek
11. Megamind
10. How to Train Your Dragon 2
9. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish
8. Kung Fu Panda 3
7. Puss in Boots
6. The Bad Guys
5. The Prince of Egypt
4. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
3. How to Train Your Dragon
2. Kung Fu Panda
1. Kung Fu Panda 2

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