Considering it was over 10 years since the last movie from the Shrek universe, 2022’s Puss In Boots: The Last Wish was released into a very different world.
The land of Far Far Away never seemed so much so. Could the swaggering little cat still make those irresistibly huge eyes at audiences?
Quick answer: yes. Slightly slower answer: doubt it, if you dare!
Picking up cues from the run of Pixar movies that balanced children’s entertainment with stories about mortality (Coco, Soul, Onward) and taking visual inspiration from Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish is a triumph.
What Is Puss In Boots: The Last Wish About?
The opening sequence catches us up with the booted feline. Puss (Antonio Banderas once again proving outstanding value for money) is living large in love with his own legend (there’s a literal whole song and dance about it) whilst he robs, woos, battles, and showboats.
Unfortunately after a ‘for whom the bell tolls’ moment Puss is given the worst news a cat can get: he’s down to his last life.
When faced with a seemingly unwinnable battle against a big bad wolf bounty hunter who explicitly leans on the ‘dead’ part of ‘dead or alive’, Puss flees and goes into reluctant retirement.
That is, until he hears of a quest to find a magical ‘wishing star’ that could restore his lives, leading to a team up with inexhaustibly positive dog, Perrito (Harvey Guillén, What We Do In The Shadows) and re-team up with bitter Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).
By tying in the character’s previous cocksure personality to over-reliance on the safety net of 9 lives – and then slicing that net away – The Last Wish opens up Puss to something unheard of: fear.
The movie doesn’t shy away from showing that a life lived gleefully disregarding consequence is one lived poorly, and that the spectre of death cannot be escaped.
Director Joel Crawford switches up the animation style, most noticeably during the highly stylised action sequences.
The comparison to Into The Spider-Verse regarding thicker comic book lines and contorted scale isn’t a derivative one; the previous director who worked on Last Wish was Spider-Verse’s co-director Bob Persichetti.
These sequences are deceptively gorgeous because it isn’t just the flashy perspectives or snappy editing at play.
Every square inch of the screen is filled with animated flourishes, be they the glowing red eyes of a terrifying wolf glinting out from all reflections, or Puss’s fur standing on end and his life flashing before his eyes as panic sets it.
Puss In Boots: The Last Wish Official Trailer
Is Puss In Boots: The Last Wish Worth Watching?
The oft-praised ‘panic attack’ scene deserves the positive feedback it garnered. So rarely is such a frightening experience captured respectfully, not least in what is ostensibly a children’s movie.
That this can not only be portrayed without patronisation as happening to an otherwise super-confident character, but also show an outside perspective on how to help someone suffering such an attack is laudable.
Whilst the central core of The Last Wish is a skilful treatise on life, death, and meaning, this is still the Shrek universe we are talking about.
Fairy tale fun comes from ‘crime family’ Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (gleefully voiced by Ray Winstone, Olivia Coleman, and Samson Kayo), a properly and deliberately evil ‘Big’ Jack Horner (John Mulaney), and a Dark Forest that rejigs itself to provide bespoke barriers to all who try to pass.
The film is just as funny as its predecessors despite the occasional lazy slip into half-swears or bleeped language to land a joke.
Recurring gags about making big eyes land well and there’s a note perfect joke surrounding Jiminy Crickett’s (sorry – ‘The Ethical Bug’) doomed attempt to be Jack Horner’s conscience.
Yet mixed in with the familiar laughs and standard plotting (everyone is seeking the special ‘thing’) is the truly underpants-wettingly scary Wolf bounty hunter (Wagnar Moura).
His glowing red eyes, ominous whistle, and ever sparking blades are used sparingly but highly effectively. Too much would have chased the small ones behind the sofa.
Giving over more runtime to Jack Horner’s comical bag of magical weapons as a more standard threat allows for the Wolf’s heightened moments of utter dread. It’s a brave move, but one that raises the film into much higher territory.
Puss In Boots: The Last Wish is the complete package that goes above and beyond what could have been an easy ‘another one’ movie.
Mixed in with one rather Shrek movie style ending is another that shakes hands with the concept of facing death to appreciate life.
With all due weight then, this review lifts up a high five and yells, “Go Team Friendship!”
Words by Mike Record
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