Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Blu-ray Review: Puss Meets Death for the Ninth Time

The Shrek series has been dormant in the cinema for over a decade, since the release of the first Puss in Boots movie in 2011. For me, that was just as well. I was never crazy about the movies from the start. The clever premise, a mishmash of all the fairy tale, nursery rhyme and folklore stories was fun. But I always found Shrek, the movie and the character, a little crass, and the reliance on pop-culture references for jokes grating.

One of the best things in that franchise, though, has been the character of Puss in Boots. Flawlessly voiced by Antonio Banderas, Puss is essentially a feline Zorro with a larger ego. The appeal of the character is the contrast between his dashing heroism and that he’s also just a cat, and so adorable.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish takes this persona and actually examines it. This story, while full of action and derring-do, also has surprising poignancy. And it accomplishes that without being leaden or heavy handed.

Puss is in the midst of yet another adventure (singing about his fearlessness while fighting off guards, and eventually a magical giant.) He pulls off a win flawlessly… until a church bell falls on him, completely crushing him.

Waking up at the veterinarian’s the next day, he’s informed he died. But cats have nine lives, this is no big deal…until Puss counts off his previous deaths and finds this was number eighth. He’s down to the final leg of his journey. This depresses Puss, and when he gets into a fight with a wolf bounty hunter, he starts to lose. For maybe the very first time, Puss is scared.

He runs away to join a cat refuge, where he has to act like a normal cat. Eating dry food, using the litter box. Not talking. That works until a super-cheerful mutt posing as a cat finds him out, and adopts him as a best friend. All Puss wants to do is live out this non-life in peace.

Those plans are ruined when Goldilocks and the Three Bears track Puss down, but they don’t recognize him in his downtrodden state. They want to hire Puss to steal a map to the Wishing Star from Jack Horner. Puss evades them, but decides he’ll steal the map for himself, and use the wish to get back his lives.

He almost gets it, but Kitty Softpaws is there first. After a fracas, Puss, Kitty, and the little dog (just called Perrito) form a shaky alliance to get to the Wishing Star first.

This is a fairly simple story, but Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has a surprising amount of variety in tone to keep it from being monotonous. The fight with the giant is surprisingly engaging. The battle with the wolf bounty hunter is intense and a little scary. Puss’s degradation as a regular cat is often hilarious, as well as kind of sad. For much of the film, Puss wears an old man beard that always looks funny.

The Dark Forest, where the map takes all the Wish-seekers, transforms depending on who’s holding the map. For death-haunted Puss and life-scarred Kitty, the forest is a dark and frightening place. When optimistic little Perrito takes the map, it becomes a colorful wonderland.

Modern CGI animated films have, in my opinion, a tendency to look kind of crap. The animation is floaty. The uncomfortable combination of cartooniness and the realism of modern computer lighting and rendering is unpleasant. Everything is too shiny. This is absolutely not the case with The Last Wish. Taking a cue from Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse, the film regularly switches up its visual styles, eschewing realism for expression. Often in the most energetic action sequences, the frame rate of the animation will drop. The choppiness of this actually highlights the actions, making them feel more dynamic than fluid animation does.

There’s also a slightly smeared, painterly effect to the textures and colors that make the film look more handmade than computer generated. It’s a lovely-looking film.

In Shrek style, it is rife with references and characters borrow from fairy tales and the like. But it does not slather them on too strong, and anachronistic pop-culture references are hardly in evidence at all. The franchise’s trademarks pokes at Disney are present as well. Jack Horner, a murderous pie mogul whose wish is to steal all the magic in the world for himself, chases after the others with a bottomless bag full of magical items shamelessly stolen from Disney films. Flying carpets, walking brooms, a sword in a stone. Even the bag looks like it belonged to a certain flying nanny.

But while Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is funny, and fun, it finds surprising poignancy. The revealed wishes of each of the characters shows deep wounds or fears in the characters. And seeing Puss the fearless genuinely terrified for this life is very effective. His fear and Kitty’s distrust contrast with Perrito’s cheerfulness, even when he reveals a genuinely tragic past. It makes an argument for maybe getting over yourself a little.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish was a surprise to me. I’d heard it was good, but I didn’t know it would be able to play so many interesting emotional notes, while never getting maudlin or heavy handed. It’s a rare treat in the modern animated movie landscape.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has been released on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD by Dreamworks. Extras include a commentary track by director Joel Crawford, co-director Januel P. Mercado, producer Mark Swift, editor James Ryan, and head of story John Gilbert. Video extras include “The Trident” (4 min), a new short about one of Puss’ deaths; Deleted Scenes (8 min); A Cast of Characters (14 min), short bios on several characters; “In the Beginning” (9 min), short interviews about the film and its visual style; “Jack Horner’s Line-O-Rama” (2 min), showcasing John Mulaney’s voice performance; “Fearless Hero” Lyric Video (3 min); “How to Draw the Purrfect Pawtrait” (12 min): directors Joel Crawford and Januel P. Mercado teach how to draw some of the characters; “How to Make a Paper Perrito” (7 min), a paper craft project; and “Kitty Cam” (15 min), which has cats playing.

Posted in , ,

Kent Conrad

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Search & Filter