Look out, Brendan Fraser; he isn’t the only star of a 2000s family flick that is returning to theatres this week. Now, eleven years after his previous film appearance, Puss in Boots (or Poos in Booze, as the term is translated in the silky Spanish purr that helped make the character a favorite in the later Shrek flicks) is back on the big screen once more.
And it’s evident that the industry at large is happy to have him back as well since the film has been nominated for Best Animated Feature at both the upcoming Academy Awards and the British Academy Film Awards.
In The Last Wish, Puss is on his ninth and final life after a long career of Zorro-like swashbuckling, but he is in no hurry to retire. So when he hears that a wishing star has crashed to the ground in a distant forest, he sets out to recover it in the hopes that its abilities would allow him to put off death for a while longer.
However, not only is Jack Horner (John Mulaney), a not-so-little fruit pie magnate with an inferiority complex stemming from his nursery-rhyme roots, on the trail; but so are a Vivienne Westwood–esque Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and her three bear accomplices (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman and Samson Kayo).
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Death himself makes a series of deliciously creepy cameo cameos in the form of a wolf (voiced by Narcos’ Wagner Moura) whose red eyes, thin smile, and silver sickles sparkle from beneath his black hooded robe. Aside from the scares provided by this legitimately unsettling character, however, the picture is almost willfully inept at evoking any sort of feeling whatsoever; the tone is consistently gratingly frenetic, and the true purpose of Puss’s journey is lost in a barrage of slapstick and jokes.
Cuteness overload! Watch #PussInBoots: The Last Wish at home now, https://t.co/TqLhdyr8vA. pic.twitter.com/39yiArjrOK
— DreamWorks Animation (@Dreamworks) January 27, 2023
The scene in which Puss and Salma Hayek’s Kitty Softpaws strive to out-cute each other by pulling increasingly charming looks is a good escalation of a running gag in the series and provides some welcome laughter. And every once in a while, it really shines thanks to the numerous… well, let’s be generous and call them tributes to the great action sequences of vintage Japanese animation.
Instead of continuing in the same aesthetic vein as Shrek, which has since become dated, DreamWorks has wisely adopted the trendy hybrid look established by Sony Animations Into the Spider-Verse, which combines aspects of hand-drawn and CG. There’s enough eye candy here to stock an entire pick-and-mix for kids. Sad to say, though, none of it has any nutritional value whatsoever.
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