Thursday, April 18, 2024

Movie Review: ‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ is a Work of Art

Directors: Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado

Writers: Tommy Swerdlow, Tom Wheeler, and Paul Fisher

Stars: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Florence Pugh

Synopsis: Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for adventure has taken its toll: he has burned through eight of his nine lives. Puss sets out on an epic journey to find the mythical Last Wish and restore his nine lives.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is an energetic, gleefully jovial, inventive, and  surprisingly mature turn for Dreamworks charming swashbuckler. Directed by Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish tells the story of Puss’s (Antonio Banderas) clash with death (Wagner Moura), as his nine lives have all been used up. The only hope for Puss is to find the last wishing star, and use its magical power to restore his 9 lives back to normal. 

Shrek is one of my favorite movies. Shrek 2 is the sequel commonly lauded as the best sequel by many on the internet. And as a franchise, it’s been dead in the water for the past 11 years. The franchise that once started as a satire of Disney became as big as Disney and lost its magic. The photorealistic animation was never quite as good as what Pixar was doing, the innuendos became dull, and the celebrity casting for animated characters became the industry standard. And with the success of How To Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda, there was no reason to return to far far away. Enter Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. The change in style, quality, and tone between the first and second films couldn’t be any sharper. Life has been breathed back into this series, and this is the fantasy adventure for the whole family this Christmas. 

The first major change in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, is its animated aesthetic. Over the last 4 years, animation has been undergoing a transformation away from the realistic design of Pixar, towards a more surreal, anime-inspired production. Into The Spiderverse, Arcane, and The Mitchells vs. The Machines have ushered in this era, and Puss in Boots: The Last Wish follows in their footsteps closely. Its pastel color palette and intimate shading technique that hints towards image depth create a journey that is visual candy. Every location is brought to life beautifully, from the enchanted forest to Horner’s pie factory. It’s made even more beautiful thanks to the wonderful characters, whose exaggerated features perfectly capture their personality. The sweet Kitty Softpaws is smoothly rendered, while the messy Bear crime family have twigs sticking out of their hair. Even Puss has undergone a transformation, with his facial features promoting his eyes and smile more than ever before. It all combines to create a gorgeous world worth admiring. 

This world, however, doesn’t exist solely to be looked upon by the audience. The story, this time around, is centered on existential questions, and while it’s nothing new to older audiences, its delicate approach is surprising from this franchise. It’s a satisfying story about family, life, and death that isn’t so complex that younger audiences will miss it. The lovable cast of characters all have far more depth than what appears at face value, and it’s used to great effect as the film progresses. Florence Pugh shines in the role of Goldilocks, as the character attempts to lead the Bear family to the wishing star for her own, secret, selfish purposes. Her chemistry with Samson Kayo, who portrays Baby Bear, adds layers to the Bear crime family. The cast is stellar across the board, from Harvey Guillén to Wagner Moura. Every actor brings their A game to the film, endearing you to even the biggest of bad guys. And outside of the emotional story is a script full of genuine gags sure to bring a smile to your face. Unlike its predecessors, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish avoids simple crude jokes to keep the adults interested, rather resorting to visual gags only possible in the medium of film. 

The final element that launches Puss in Boots: The Last Wish into greatness is its incredible action sequences. Not since the projects of the late Monty Ohm has there been an animated project that has action this fluid. The animation utilizes motion-lines to create speed, with editing that enhances the build-up to the swing of steel. Transformation weapons, one-take sequences, and constant movement give the film a rhythm and intensity that draws you into the moment. And it enables each character to shine, as their own styles of fighting are depicted beautifully.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is an 11 year sequel with something to prove, and while its meta-textual elements don’t quite reach the highs of Shrek 2, it’s a work of art you must see this holiday season. 

Grade: B+




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