Puss in Boots: The Last Wish – Film Review
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek Pinault, Harvey Guillén, Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Anthony Mendez
Directors: Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado
Synopsis: Discovering he has gone through eight of his nine lives, Puss in Boots discovers a possibility to restore all of his lives through a magical wishing star…
Review: With his signature boots, hat and sword, it is easy to see why the cunning (and cute when he wants to be) feline warrior known as Puss in Boots captured the attention of everyone when he first appeared in Shrek 2 back in 2004. While he cropped up again in later sequels, the first sequel featuring everyone’s grumpy but lovable ogre remained the jewel in the crown for the franchise based in a land far far away. While he later appeared in his own 2011 spin-off which came and went without seemingly too much fanfare, this sequel has come along to put the Shrek franchise back on the map with the best film in the franchise since the first Shrekquel.
Puss In Boots (Banderas) is living his best lives as a fearless warrior who craves adventure, which leads to an enthralling encounter between Puss and a gargantuan monster/mountain hybrid, all within the film’s opening first act. While he succeeds in his fight against the creature, it comes at a cost. Upon waking up, he finds out that he has used up eight of his nine lives and is urged to put his swashbuckling adventure days behind him for good. However, Puss learns of the existence of a magical wishing star which could replenish his lives, but Puss soon discovers he is being hunted by a terrifying hooded wolf (Moura), the physical manifestation of death itself, and must evade him at all costs before he has a chance to get his lives back.
In a franchise which at its peak was a clever and hilarious look at our perception of fairytales, Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow’s screenplay leans into the fairytale world with the magical wishing star, as well as the use of some high profile characters from well-known fables as side characters, most notably Goldilocks (Pugh) and the Three Bears (Winstone, Colman and Kayo). However, it expertly combines this fairytale backdrop with a Western heavy vibe as Puss, a feline version of Clint Eastwood’s antihero from The Man With No Name trilogy in many respects, must battle an assortment of creatures big and small in his quest to avoid a permanent encounter with death. Banderas has always felt perfect for this role and he is once again perfect as there’s an array of emotions Puss goes through over the course of this enthralling adventure, which must see Puss reluctantly work with a past flame in Kitty Softpaws (Hayek Pinault), who is not happy with Puss, to say the least.
It makes for a fascinating dynamic between these two as they go on their adventure, aided by adorable therapy dog Perro (Guillen). Alongside them, Wagner Moura’s performance as the physical incarnation of death feels particularly chilling and foreboding. The best family movies are the ones which combine elements which will delight younger audiences while giving older members thought-provoking and mature themes. With its explorations of mortality, and the anxiety which can come along with that, it adds so much emotional weight to the story. Ever since the release of Spider-Man Into The Spider-Verse, the bar for producing ground-breaking animation has been raised massively. The combination of the fairytale setting, as well as the Western vibe, gives the animators the opportunity to tinker with varying styles of animation. Whether it’s the glint in a character’s eye, an exhilarating action scene, the visualisation of the titular wishing star or another form of magic artefact, the visuals remain dazzlingly impressive throughout.
It is a shame the Big Bad Wolf/Death’s appearances in the film are fleeting because he is such a commanding, ominous presence, it makes the film’s main villain Jack Horner (Mulaney) seem a bit superfluous in comparison. Horner is a bit one note in terms of him being just straight-up evil and cruel with barely any nuance to him, it makes you wish the film had used more of the former and less of the latter. Nevertheless, while many had assumed the Shrek franchise was consigned to the books where one would read about all those fairytales it parodied, Puss In Boots: The Last Wish serves as a reminder that, like its titular hero seeking to replenish his nine lives, there could be plenty more life, and magic, left in the franchise in a land not too far from Far Far Away.