Puss in Boots: The Last Wish | Review


Twelve years have flown since DreamWorks’ Puss in Boots last swashbuckled his way across the multiplex. Sixty-five by cat count. So long a break has killed many a franchise past – whatever happened to TinTin? – but what a difference the hiatus has spawned here. In animation alone, The Last Wish attains frankly astonishing visual superiority. To this a Spider-Versal debt is owed. Then there’s the narrative, which is pitched somewhere between the last of Disney’s Pirates series and, of all things, Wolverine swan song Logan. It’s surprisingly, impressively, mature material for a modern day fairytale.

Things start riotously enough. A whirling blend of slapstick and rompish action sees Puss (Antonio Banderas – feline sexy) topple the Sleeping Giant of Del Mar – to the vainglorious soundtrack of a self-penned ode – only to wind up being fatally crushed by the town bell. Not that this phases our “fearless hero”. Puss laughs in the face of death. After all, he has nine lives. Or so he thinks. As a series of flashbacks reveal, this living legend has lived eight lives out, each one more farcically ended than the last. A brush with death – literally and a genuinely chilling performance from Narcos’ Wagner Moura – later and Puss is a quivering wreck.

Mortality breeds malaise and, in this case, a scraggy beard and moribund new identity. Buried are the cape, hat and boots. In their stead, a baby blue collar and mittens. It’s as repellent a final bow as one could imagine but is mercifully cut short by the arrival of Florence Pugh’s Goldilocks – a cockney Vivienne Westwood meets Black Widow bad ass – and her three bear posse, voiced somewhat unremarkably by Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman and Samson Kayo. They’re after a mystical wishing star with the power to grant one wisher their heart’s desire. Goldi wants Puss – legendary bounty hunter – to steal her the map. If the quest set up is familiar, it’s well executed no less.

Also seeking the star is one-time nursery rhyme favourite turned corrupt pastry chef Big Jack Horner – he who sat in the corner when little. One more character is later life existential crises. John Mulaney wins many of the film’s funniest lines as Horner, whose physique recalls Pocahontas villain Governor Ratcliffe and mode of transport the rumbling mechanical towns of Peter Jackson’s Mortal Engines adaptation. Salma Hayek Pinault makes a return as Puss’ love interest Kitty Softpaws but plays something of a second fiddle to Harvey Guillén voiced newcomer Perrito. He’s the highly merchandisable, pot-bellied therapy dog with the bug wide eyes and endearingly squeaky voice, set to be adored by kids the world over. He’s also naïvely wise, spouting aphorisms about the sanctimony of life in casual conversation.

If every follow up to DreamWorks’ first Shrek saw a blunting of the series’ sharp wit, The Last Wish does at least restore a touch of the original satire – albeit in a fuzzier and more inclusive fashion. Nods to all from Cinderella and Aladdin to Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins pepper both plot and mise-en-scène, giving rise to a sugar rush of familiarity and ribbing pot shots. There’s fun to be had with a parodic take of Pinocchio’s conscious bug – a Kevin McCann voiced Jiminy Cricket – while the ‘just right’ conceit of Goldilocks’ own tale is smartly deployed.

It is, however, the sensational visual advancement of the film that sets The Last Wish apart from its predecessor. The rounded realism that gave DreamWorks its ‘look’ from Antz to The Croods is here replaced with the graphic, painterly stylisation that enjoyed such success in The Bad Guys and was so unashamedly pilfered from Sony’s Into the Spider Verse. The achievement is stunning, with scene after scene popping into zany life via inventive animation and a dazzling interplay of colour and light. If it’s hard to imagine the more sedentary pacing of Shrek gelling to so madcap a visual approach, the thrill ride of his booted sidekick’s adventures makes for a purrrfect match. Puss has never looked better.



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