Before delving into the meat of Dreamworks' latest foray into celebrity-voiced Fairy Tale weirdness, let's get one key thing out of the way: if you don't walk into Puss In Boots with an already generous amount of fondness for cats, either in real life, or YouTube video form, you probably won't find much to like about this movie.
Now then, for the rest of you out there, those who don't find themselves with a terrible, yawning void where their human soul should be, Puss In Boots is a legitimate animated treat. In this film, Dreamworks has taken one of its most popular side characters from the Shrek film series, and spun him off into a heroic adventure of his own. That hero, of course, is the titular Puss, a leather-booted, swashbuckling brigand who also happens to be a cat voiced by Antonio Banderas. This is a film that rides largely on its adorable factor, but it does so smartly.
Specifically, the bevy of involved screenwriters and director Chris Miller made it a point to surround Puss with interesting, engaging supporting characters. Banderas' Puss schtick in the Shrek movies was certainly amusing enough in small doses, but stretched over 90 minutes, you could easily see the feline Lothario thing becoming a drag. Intriguingly, Miller did the opposite of what the Shrek films have largely done with their additional characters, avoiding huge, disinterested names in favor of actors who actually benefit their characters.
In this adventure (a sort of prequel to Puss' introduction in Shrek), we find Puss branded an outlaw and on the run. He works solo nowadays, but we find that he once had an associate, a scheming, perpetually needy Humpty Dumpty, voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Together, the two once dreamed of stealing the magic beans of Jack and the Beanstalk fame, but a variety of misadventures split them up, and ruined their friendship. Now, Humpty's back, alongside a master thief named Kitty Softpaws, perhaps predictably played by Salma Hayek. Together, they conspire to take the magic beans from the grotesque, vagabond pair of Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris, respectively), climb up the beanstalk, steal the golden goose of lore, and repay some old debts in the process.
By skimming over some of the more integral details, I'm perhaps making this story sound a bit more featherweight than it actually is. Make no mistake, Puss In Boots is a light, easy-going adventure, but there is a surprisingly funny and clever tale of revenge, redemption, and a few other hefty things in here too. Part of that is because Puss In Boots almost completely avoids resting on cheap, easy pop-culture gags for the sake of killing time. Dance numbers, adult-oriented jokes, and other hacky, easy gags the Shrek-makers often relied upon are all but eschewed here, and the few instances that are included are cleverer, funnier, and more interesting than anything in the last three Shrek films.
It's also got cuteness on its side. Puss In Boots is one of Dreamworks' better animated films, by a wide measure. The various kitties look delectably fluffy and expressive. I'd be a damnable liar if I didn't say I didn't have a strong urge to reach out and give 'em a little tummy rub at various points in the movie. I guess that was the one positive effect of the 3D, which is mostly fine, but unnecessary otherwise.
I also give the actors credit for injecting a good bit of personality into these characters. Banderas has been reliably good in this role for a while, but he's in especially solid form here. The Hayek casting might seem like a bit of an obvious one, but she doesn't vamp it up too much for the sake of making herself overly recognizable. Galifianakis is the real stand-out, though. The team that created his character visually deserves a raise, due in no small part to the absurd wardrobe he receives throughout the movie, but Galifianakis' soul really comes through. Every pained, desperate freak out, every awkward exchange, every goofball moment of his is note-perfect. This version of Humpty is probably the best thing to come out of the Shrek machine in a good long while.
That could be said of this whole movie, frankly. Though it's nowhere near as impactful as the original Shrek was in its heyday, I laughed nearly as much as I did seeing that seminal computer-animated film for the first time. Puss In Boots might be a bit of a trifle, a simple, kid-friendly adventure that's mostly there to capitalize on the Shrek associations and inherent feline cuteness, but there's more than enough substance beneath all that to carry this thing through to the end. Maybe this means less given the relative dearth of quality animated films in 2011, but Puss In Boots is easily among the best this year.
Box Office Winners League: 10/28/11
Rorie takes a commanding lead, as the guys plunge into week three.
Trailer 3: Puss In Boots
There...there aren't even any jokes here. People say things that are assumed to be humorous, but they're not.
Puss In Boots: Cat Premiere Video
Watch as Antonio Banderas' dignity is sloughed off like dead skin!
Trailer: Puss In Boots
Maybe prison rape jokes don't belong in children's films. Just...maybe.
Trailer: Puss In Boots
Well, they did promise to kill off the Shrek franchise, so I guess this is what we have to put up with to make that happen...
|news||DVD/Blu-Ray: Puss In Boots Finally Arrives To Satiate Your Fetish For Puss, Boots||Rorie|
|blog||UK Box Office Report: 27/1/12 - 29/1/12||jackanderson|
|blog||UK Box Office Report: 20/1/12 - 22/1/12||jackanderson|
|blog||UK Box Office Report: 6/1/12 - 8/1/12||jackanderson|
|blog||UK Box Office Report: 30/12/11 - 1/1/12||jackanderson|
|blog||UK Box Office Report: 9/12/11 - 11/12/11||jackanderson|
|news||Failure is the New Victory, and Other Box Office News||Alex|
|review||Screen One: Puss In Boots (2 out of 5)||jackanderson|
|Name||Puss in Boots|
|US Release||Oct. 28, 2011|
|UK Release||Dec. 9, 2011|
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|Alias(es)||Puss in Boots 3D
Puss in Boots: The Story of an Orge