Puss in Boots

4 Dec

Title: Puss in Boots
Year: 2011
Director: Chris Miller
Writers: David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler and Jon Zack, based on a story by Will Davies and Bryan Lynch, and the character by Charles Perrault
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Zeus Mendoza, Constance Marie, Guillermo del Toro
MPAA Rating: PG, some adventure action and mild rude humor
Runtime: 90 min
Major Awards: –
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

 

When I first heard that this film was actually being made I have to admit that I let out a huge sigh and rolled my eyes. I mean, yes, the first two Shrek movies are pretty awesome and certainly stand to this day as classics of modern day animation, the franchise that helped set up DreamWorks Animation as the biggest threat to Pixar (though still really being no threat at all) and one that, with the first film that featured the green ogre, actually took the Oscar away from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. The third installment of the franchise, however, Shrek the Third, showed a steep decline in quality, and last year’s fourth entry, Shrek Forever After, was actually a film I didn’t even recommend, giving it a C+, so I wasn’t really looking forward to getting any more material from that world.

Yet we get Puss in Boots, a spin-off that was originally planned as a direct-to-video installment after the popular character Antonio Banderas voiced made a big impact when he appeared in Shrek 2. And I went into it fully prepared to think of it what I thought of the last Shrek movie, one that had exhausted that franchise’s creative juices. What we got, however, was quite the opposite of that, I don’t know if the fact that this one serves as a prequel and rids the film of any obligations to stick to a Shrek storyline or use characters of that world other than the titular feline got everyone’s mojo flowing again or what, but Puss in Boots is a film that, while not necessarily awe-inspiring, certainly has a helluva lot of charm and intelligence to go along with some seriously outstanding visuals.

Yes, this is that extremely rare year in which the DreamWorks offerings surpassed the one that Pixar gave us (since this film and Kung Fu Panda 2 were certainly better than the disappoinment that was Cars 2). And the best thing about this one is that it kind of knows what it is, it knows it’s a spin-off featuring a well-liked-yet-not-fundamental character and it uses that to its advantage, never taking itself too seriously and just having fun as it goes through its story, not trying to give us a really deep and meaningful animated film, but succeeding like crazy in providing us with a really entertaining ninety minutes.

This is the reason why we fell in love with the first two Shrek movies in the first place, because they offered us a really neat combination of super light action, incredibly witty gags made for adults but enveloped in a situation kids would also get a kick out of, and sincerely smart takes on making fun of the classic fairy tales we’ve all grown up with. By squarely focusing on those fun qualities this one gets to deliver to the point in which I actually wouldn’t mind if they made a sequel of the spin-off, it was just too damn fun to watch, it’s just a super bright movie, so impressively made visually speaking that even when the story lulled you couldn’t care less because you were having so much fun just looking at the stuff going on on-screen.

Not to mention that this is the good kind of spin-off, since most of the films that derive from other, more-popular series of movies are usually self-referencing, acknowledging to their core that they deserve some of the props, and money, given to the ones they spawned from simply from sharing a strand of their DNA. Puss in Boots is awesome because the Shrek movies might as well not even exist as far as its concerned, it is its own beast, full of a renewed kind of energy and pizzazz that feel even fresher when you consider just how flat the last couple of Shrek films had felt, it’s a pretty smart move that this one ignored the existence of those before going forward to tell its own great story.

The character we met seven years ago is again voiced here by Mr. Banderas, still being that vain swashbuckling kitty that thinks he’s just, pardon the pun, the coolest cat around. We see him dabbling along characters like Humpty Dumpty (voiced by Zach Galifianakis, natch) and the villanous Jack and Jill, who are of course in possession of two magical beans. There’s also Salma Hayek voicing the romantic interest/feisty sidekick of the film, Kitty Softpaws (cause she’s been declawed), and, if you’re counting, this would be the fifth time Mr. Banderas and Ms. Hayek have collaborated after both Mariachi films (Desperado and Once Upon a Time in Mexico), Frida and the third Spy Kids joint.

Puss in Boots is a really solid option if you’re looking for a fun time at the movies, kids in tow or not, it may not be as memorable a character as Shrek or Donkey were, but it’s a charming one, and Humpty Dumpty’s pretty awesome too, certainly the best drawn-out characters of the whole film and joy to watch evolve. And even if the story kind of seems all over the place at times, changing its heart more than once along the way, you just have to love to the highest of heavens the visuals of this one, everything looks amazing here. If you thought things couldn’t get cuter than the kitty-eyes Puss showed in the Shrek films, just wait until you see those eyes when he was a baby kitten. This is an awesome spin-off, and I wouldn’t mind getting a sequel of it, or, you know, a spin-off of a spin-off, focusing on Mr. Galifianakis’ Humpty Dumpty.

Grade: B+

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