Sunday, April 16, 2023

Review: "PUSS IN BOOTS: The Last Wish" is a Delightful Surprise

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 17 of 2023 (No. 1906) by Leroy Douresseaux

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)
Running time:  102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPA – PG for action/violence, rude humor/language, and some scary moments
DIRECTOR:  Joel Crawford with Januel Mercado
WRITERS:  Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow; from a story by Tom Wheeler and Tommy Swerdlow
PRODUCER:  Mark Swift
EDITOR:  James Ryan
COMPOSER:  Heitor Pereira
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  (voices) Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Coleman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Kevin McCann, Anthony Mendez, and Bernardo De Paula

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a 2022 computer-animated fantasy-adventure film directed by Joel Crawford and produced by DreamWorks Animation.  The film is a sequel to Puss in Boots (2011) and is also the sixth installment in the Shrek film franchise.  The Last Wish focuses on Puss in Boots' epic journey to gain the wish that will restore the eight of his nine lives that he has lost.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish opens in the town of Del Mar.  There, the renowned hero and outlaw, Puss in Boots (Antionio Banderas), hosts a party and later, saves the town from a giant.  After being injured during his battle with a giant, Puss sees a local doctor (Anthony Mendez) who informs him that he has used eight of his nine lives.  [I'm assuming that you, dear readers, are familiar with the superstitious belief that cats have nine lives].  The doctor urges Puss to retire from adventuring before he loses his ninth and final life.

Puss refuses to retire, but then, he has an unfortunate encounter with a menacing, bounty-hunting.  Known as Wolf (Wagner Moura), he is garbed in a black robe and hood and wields twin sickles, and he is so fearsome that Puss has to flee.  While on the run, Puss learns of the magical “Wishing Star,” which can grant a single wish to someone bearing the map to its location.  Puss begins his journey to the Star's location, the “Dark Forest.”  Joining him on his journey is Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), the savvy Tuxedo cat he apparently betrayed, and also a small dog that Puss and Kitty call “Perrito” (Harvey Guillén).  But they aren't the only ones looking for the Wishing Star.

I was happy to hear about Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.  When I first saw the original, Puss in Boots, I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is like its fellow DreamWorks Animation 2022 stablemate, The Bad Guys.  Both films take inspiration for their production design from Sony Pictures Animation's 2018, Oscar-winning film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which mixes both a 3D and a 2D aesthetic in its design.  I think The Last Wish looks closer to Into the Spider-Verse than The Bad Guys does, but neither film electrifies the screen the way the Spider-Man film did.  

Like its predecessor, The Last Wish has a lead character who is part Zorro and part Valentino.  Puss in Boots is a charming rogue, the kind of character that can drive a swashbuckling adventure film to success.  However, The Last Wish requires a character to not only undergo a character arc, but also to evolve.  To that end, Antonio Banderas gives a performance with more humor and pathos than most actors give in live-action roles.  By the time The Last Wish ends, Banderas has me wishing real hard for a third film in this series.

As Kitty Softpaws, Salma Hayek makes the most of her moments.  The character doesn't get the space to roam dramatically that Puss does, but Hayek makes Kitty seem like a character that could carry her own movie.  Actor Harvey Guillén keeps Perrito the dog perfectly cute for this film, because he is just the kind of character that can quickly go from lovable to annoying.

The rest of the characters in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish come across as extraneous.  The “Three Bears Crime Family,” which includes Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), Mama Bear (Olivia Colman), Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo), and also the crime lord, “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney), don't feel so important to the story that they could not be replaced with other famous fairy tale characters.  They aren't bad characters, but they seem to exist in The Last Wish for no other reason than to be part of this film's big action set pieces.  But Wagner Moura is awesome as the magnificent “Wolf.”  The film could have used more of him and less of the other “criminals.”

Still, Antonio Banderas once again makes Puss in Boots an animated character worthy of headlining his own films.  Hopefully, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is not the last Puss in Boots film.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Sunday, April 16, 2023

2023 Academy Awards, USA:  1nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Joel Crawford and Mark Swift)

2023 BAFTA Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Animated Feature Film” (Joel Crawford and Mark Swift)

2023 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture – Animated”

2023 Image Awards (NAACP):  1 nomination: “Outstanding Animated Motion Picture”

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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