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Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Review

December 31, 2022 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Puss in Boots The Last Wish still Image Credit: DreamWorks Animation
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Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Review  

Directed By: Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado
Written By: Paul Fisher, Tommy Swerdlow, and Tom Wheeler
Runtime: 100 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG for action/violence, rude humor/language, and some scary moments.

Antonio Banderas – Puss in Boots
Kitty Softpaws – Salma Hayek
Harvey Guillén – Perro
Florence Pugh – Goldilocks
John Mulaney – Jack Horner
Wagner Moura – The Big Bad Wolf
Ray Winstone – Papa Bear
Olivia Colman – Mama Bear
Samson Kayo – Baby Bear
Anthony Mendez – Doctor
Da’Vine Joy Randolph – Mama Luna

It only took 11 years, but a new solo installment for the fearless, swashbuckling feline hero, Puss in Boots, has finally arrived with Puss in Boots: The Last Wish. Despite initial skepticism due to the decently average original Puss in Boots movie, it’s obvious that filmmakers Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado overcame the shortcomings of the first film and delivered a rousing, yet heartwarming, animated adventure that lights a greatly needed fire underneath this Shrek spinoff.

The initial Puss in Boots film was fairly successful, but the character never truly felt like one deserving of a solo animated adventure until now. A solo Puss in Boots movie was first discussed when the character appeared in a breakout role in Shrek 2. In Shrek 2, the joke was that Puss does not exactly live up to his reputation. He was certainly not a legitimate threat to Shrek and Donkey, but he soon befriends the heroes and becomes a benevolent cohort to their ragtag band. At the same time, the character never felt strong enough to carry his own story.

The Last Wish puts Puss (Banderas) at a dire crossroads. After living a frivolous, freewheeling, devil-may-care life of a swashbuckling outlaw/rogue/vigilante, the “fearless” feline now faces the last of his nine lives. Puss must now contend with the fear of death, which terrifies him to his core. Puss is stalked by a deadly bounty hunter, the Big Bad Wolf (Moura), so his fight or flight instincts kick in, and he seeks retirement in the refuge of cat lover Mama Luna (Randolph).

Puss begrudgingly accepts his new mundane existence, and perhaps finds an answer to his troubles in the form of a magical wishing star. Evading the pursuit of the Goldilocks (Pugh) and the Three Bears Crime Family, Puss sets out on a new adventure to find the wishing star to get more lives back. He unwittingly finds a new sidekick in the form of a stray aspiring unnamed therapy dog (Guillén), and he’s thrust back together with his old flame, Kitty Softpaws (Hayek), who is also searching for the wishing star. However, they aren’t the only ones searching for the star’s magic. Goldilocks wants that magical wish, as does the nefarious Jack Horner, who wants to use the wishing star to gain control of all the magic in the world. Puss must now come to grips with what could be his last adventure.

The Last Wish finds its groove and delivers a strong, yet emotional, story for the fearless feline. As Puss faces his mortality and fear of death in a gripping conflict, he is stripped down and hits rock bottom before he recovers. The introduction of the Big Bad Wolf, who may or may not be the Grim Reaper, is a constant, visceral presence throughout the film. The Big Bad Wolf’s visual design is impressive, chilling, and terrifying. He makes for a striking silhouette and a worthy adversary that Puss must eventually find the courage to face.

Banderas stretches his vocal acting muscles a bit more in The Last Wish. His performance as Puss in the sequel is less one-note and more vibrant, and he performs a complex moral dilemma for Puss. Puss must overcome his narcissism and come to grips with his mortality. At some point, even his legend must come to an end. Puss is never more alive than when he constantly stares death in the face, but now that he is down to his last life, he can’t let go. At the same time, Puss is miserable living in self-imposed exile. The film depicts Puss’s vulnerability as an aging hero who is nearing the end of his story, adding an appealing layer of drama to his character arc.

While the animation budget for The Last Wish looks limited compared to other big-budget, CG-animated productions, Crawford and Mercado work around that, opting for a more heavily stylized look. Considering the story is framed as a fairytale, the more painted edges of the animation and the new visual style lend a more whimsical storybook quality to the film. When the action ramps up, it moves at a lower framerate, and the CG models almost seem to be moving in stop motion. These moments happen are sparse, when the stakes are at their highest, and the effect does not feel too overused.

The Last Wish introduces updates for familiar roles that fit like a glove in this wacky world of fractured fairytale characters. Mulaney is great as the story’s key antagonist, Jack Horner. He’s re-imagined here as a gargantuan, spoiled rich kid heir to his family’s baked goods empire, who has taken to collecting various magical antiquities and items. Other new standouts are Goldilocks and Three Bears, who are reimagined as a cockney crime family of British gangsters, with Pugh’s Goldilocks as the ringleader.

Despite introducing all the new characters, the writers maintain all of them rather well. Each party goes on their own unique journeys through the Dark Forest in pursuit of the magical wishing star. Goldilocks and the Three Bears also receive a rewarding, emotional character arc that supplements Puss’ journey.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is one of the year’s most surprising, exceptional, satisfying, and emotional cinematic experiences. It overcomes the odds and delivers a much more well-rounded, rousing adventure for Puss. The only drawback is that DreamWorks Animation might have waited too long to deliver such a sequel for the favorite, fearless hero, Puss in Boots.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is not just good, it's surprisingly great. The film offers the remnants of the Shrek franchise a much-needed shot in the arm and finally finds the groove for Puss in Boots as a character in a solo adventure. Co-directors Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado uncover the sweet spot in The Last Wish, giving Puss a fascinating character journey while also delivering a whimsical, classical fairytale-like adventure. The only hitch is that DreamWorks and Universal might have waited too long to make this film when the momentum of the Shrek-verse has possibly waned.