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Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: The Furry Feline is Back and Better Than Ever

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Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Melbourne Premiere screening provided by Universal Pictures

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is 2022’s animated revelation”

We were first introduced to the sword-wielding, innocent eye, furry feline Puss in Boots way back in DreamWorks iconic Shrek 2 (2004). In the time since, he’s made appearances in all the Shrek films, had his first solo outing in Puss and Boots: The Three Diablos (2012), and even had a pretty forgetful animated series (which Antonio Banderas was not involved in). That said, nothing could have quite prepared us for his latest adventure where he is forced to face his mortality and the prospect that his heyday is well and truly behind him.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is 2022’s animated revelation, and the best DreamWorks film since How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019). It comes at a time where Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022) is savouring the praise on the animation front, but it’s not a film to bet against.

An outlaw by trade and a legend by name, Puss in Boots (a returning and in-form Antonio Banderas) is still up to his old antics: causing mischief, engaging in brawls and duels, and living to tell the tale. The only downside is that his slip ups have left him with only one out of nine lives to think about. With this realisation in mind, he’s not too fazed, until death himself —in the form of a red eyed, whistling, big bad wolf— comes after him. It sets him on a course of hiding, re-emerging, and pursuing a wishing star that might be the solution to all of his problems.

Joel Crawford (known for 2020’s The Croods: A New Age) brilliantly uses the premise at hand to create a story of self-discovery. The prospect of death in the absence of semi-immortality is a difficult pill for Puss to swallow, and while not a revolutionary concept (the aforementioned Pinocchio is concerned with a similar conundrum), it marks a departure from animated stories that feel like the stakes aren’t as pressing.

(from left) Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), Goldi (Florence Pugh), Mama Bear (Olivia Colman) and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) in DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, directed by Joel Crawford.

(from left) Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), Goldi (Florence Pugh), Mama Bear (Olivia Colman) and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) in DreamWorks Animation’s Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, directed by Joel Crawford.

This is perhaps even better represented in the film’s visual style which oscillates between the trippy, reduced frame rate that Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse (2018) introduced and popularised, with the more recognisable crisp and clean animation style of DreamWorks. On a technical level, it creates an almost comic-book like presentation (without the ‘POWS’ and ‘WHACKS’) that has been teased as something to expect in the next Spiderverse film. On a story level, it captures the shifting scale of power and control that Puss has, with earlier moments capturing him in all his prowess and on the front foot, but the later stages showing him as jagged and off kilter — or in other words, not the Puss in Boots of legend. It’s a remarkable display of internal conflict and mental resilience that challenges the protagonist at various points throughout the film.

Fortunately he’s not alone on his adventure as he’s accompanied by the returning Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) and a new face in puppy Perro (Harvey Guillen) who’s introduced masquerading as a cat in a Masked Singer-esque fashion. The trio seamlessly bounce off each other, with Kitty and Puss continuing their verbal jousts with that level of romantic tension underneath it all. Perro on the other hand offers a sort of bona fide warmth that rubs off on the two felines.

Also on the journey for the wishing star are Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears, characters imbued with a British wit and snarkiness that adds an added element to the story. There’s also a caricature-looking Jack Horner (voiced by John Mulaney and not to be confused with the Jack Horner of Boogie Nights). The presence of these characters is true to the Shrek approach DreamWorks has previously taken, where characters from fairy tales make appearances (including some past fan favourites).

It makes for a Super Smash Bros-esque experience, with all characters locking horns with Puss and each other throughout the film as they battle their way through the ‘dark forest’ to the star. At the end though, this is a film about learning how to become more selfless and accept that there are people along this winding and changing road we call life, that just want to help you out. Puss in Boots: The Last Wish delivers its messages with a deft subtlety and swift paw, without sacrificing the thrills and spills at its core.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish opens nationally from Boxing Day, 2022.

Contributors

Arnel Duracak

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