"Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" stars Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek Pinault, Olivia Colman, Harvey Guillén, Samson Kayo, Wagner Moura, Anthony Mendez, John Mulaney, Florence Pugh, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, and Ray Winstone. Releasing on December 21, 2022, the film has Puss in Boots setting out on a journey to restore his lost lives.
The film is directed by Joel Crawford, who also directed "The Croods: A New Age". He's also a storyboard artist for films like "Bee Movie", "Kung Fu Panda", "Rise of the Guardians", and "Trolls". It is a spin-off of the Shrek franchise and a sequel to the 2011 movie, "Puss in Boots". Do you ever wish you could embark on another fantastical adventure with the swash-buckling and handsome feline? Well, you're in luck because DreamWorks Animation is here to grant you that wish. Puss in Boots has become a fan favorite of the studio's popular franchise since his debut in 2004's "Shrek 2". Brought to life by Antonio Banderas, the adorable kitty offered a unique and joyous take on the fairy tale character and the similar sword-wielding outlaw Zorro, also played by Banderas. In context, this casting choice makes perfect sense. The titular cat has continued to do so in the other "Shrek" sequels and his solo adventures, including the 2011 spin-off film and the Netflix series "The Adventures of Puss in Boots". Several years later, DreamWorks decided to bring the dashing hero back for a new adventure that can be described as "life-changing". With that said, let's journey back to fairy tale land and see if this latest sequel marks a triumphant comeback for the character.
The story follows Puss in Boots (Banderas), a former fugitive and hero of San Ricardo. While saving a town from a giant monster, Puss loses his life due to a tragic accident. After learning that he has used eight of his nine lives, Puss is forced into retirement by living in Mama Luna's (Randolph) cat-filled home. Feeling depressed that his hero days are over, Puss eventually discovers the legend of the mystical Wishing Star, which can grant the founder any wish they want. With the help of Kitty Softpaws (Hayek) and a wannabe therapy dog (Guillén), Puss sets out to find the Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. Unfortunately, he also has to outsmart a few adversaries attempting to hunt him down, including Goldilocks (Pugh) and the three bears, as well as the mysterious Big Bad Wolf (Moura).
Puss in Boots has been listed as one of my favorite characters in the DreamWorks Animation library since "Shrek 2" for the reasons I listed above. He's also one of the characters who helped introduce me to Antonio Banderas, with another being Gregorio Cortez from the "Spy Kids" movies. My love for Puss in Boots led me to watch his spin-off film in the theater, and I thought it was entertaining. It didn't do much to stand alongside the studio's best works, but it delivered a fun enough story to successfully expand the Shrek franchise. That alone was enough for me to reunite with the character eleven years later. Man, I feel old.
If you're wondering how I saw it earlier than expected, it's because I attended a special early screening of the movie. I went with my mother and sister, and we all had a great time together. If there's anything better than watching a movie, it's watching it with the family. But what about the film itself? Did it live up to the expectations it provided? Honestly, yes, it did. With its unique style and a colorful blast of action, humor, and heart, "The Last Wish" granted its own wish of being surprisingly better than the 2011 film.
One of the reasons for its improvement is the story. The movie features a clever take on the "nine lives" scenario, with Puss only down to his final life. As a result, the fearless feline faces an even greater challenge: fear. The story sees Puss on a journey to find the star and restore his lives, only to discover what really matters in life. Not only did it maintain my interest in its concept, but it also provided a highly entertaining and thoughtful story to coincide with its fairy tale environment. "The Last Wish" delivers many elements we've come to expect from a DreamWorks Animation movie, including its family-friendly comedy and fast-paced action. However, the direction for the film's challenging topics makes it stand out from most of those films.
With its underlying themes relating to death, it makes sense for "The Last Wish" to be a tad darker than the first film. It still provides a series of light-hearted entertainment for the kids, but it also has a few sequences that are surprisingly more intense for that age group. This is similar to the other great DreamWorks sequels, "Kung Fu Panda 2" and "How to Train Your Dragon 2", in which the stories combine their usual brand of humor with intense action and mature themes. While "The Last Wish" is a tad below those fantastic follow-ups due to a couple of predictable moments, the film effectively showcases the studio's ability to provide family-friendly entertainment and test specific boundaries of its storytelling.
Like the 2011 film, "The Last Wish" also benefits from its lovable cast of characters, including Puss, Kitty Softpaws, and Perrito. In addition to being enjoyable, some characters offer a good amount of depth to strengthen the film's messages. The movie also felt more connected to the Shrek universe with its cameos, which I won't reveal in case you haven't watched it yet. They are also brought to life by a cast of talented actors, especially Antonio Banderas, who never ceases to amaze me as the titular character. Salma Hayek Pinault was also entertaining as Kitty, and Harvey Guillén was a delightful surprise as Perrito, the dog who accompanies Puss and Kitty. I honestly wasn't expecting Perrito to steal the show in most of his scenes, but he did, and it was a joy to watch. The humor involving Perrito was absolutely hilarious. Florence Pugh was also great as Goldilocks, one of Puss's enemies who are after the star. I can't say anything more about Goldilocks and the Big Bad Wolf, who's marvelously voiced by Wagner Moura. But I can say that the way these antagonists are handled is "just right".
But, of course, the story isn't the only thing that got an upgrade for the sequel. The film's animation is another element that makes it stand out from the first movie. "The Last Wish" continues the studio's trend of providing a unique style inspired by "Into the Spider-Verse", which creatively combines CGI and 2D animation. The sequel utilizes new technology to make it resemble more like storybook illustrations and showcase the frenetic and stylistic flair similar to "The Bad Guys" and "Into the Spider-Verse". The result is another remarkable showcase of vibrance and creativity. In addition, the animation provides a splendid amount of color and style to display its imaginative world and thrilling action scenes. If this new style is the studio's future, then I can't wait to see what it'll bring to the table for their upcoming projects.
Overall, "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish" makes its wish of being a fun, thoughtful, and visually imaginative fairy-tale adventure come true. This is another animated sequel from DreamWorks that took the predecessor's elements and effectively improved them regarding its themes and animation. Heck, I would even say that it's better than Joel Crawford's directorial debut, "The Croods: A New Age", another DreamWorks sequel. With its delightful cast of characters, strong direction, thought-provoking messages, fantastic animation, and entertaining mixture of action and comedy, the film is a near-"purrfect" choice for families and fans of its predecessor to see over the holiday season. Additionally, it's also one of the best animated films from the studio and one of the best of the year regarding the art of animation.