When word first broke about the forthcoming release of Puss in Boots the news was met with much trepidation but very little surprise. Dreamworks had already proved they were prepared to milk the Shrek franchise for every last dime, with two sequels (each displaying a decrease in quality and invention) and multiple Christmas spin offs. It would be fair to say then that expectation for this latest venture into the fairytale inspired world of Shrek was low at best. However, through the combination of a superbly well written script and some fantastic animation, Puss in Boots is much more than a money grabbing extension of the Shrek universe but rather a wonderfully conceived family movie which deserves to be judged on its own merits.
We join Puss (Antonio Banderas – successfully combining his thick Spanish accent with a sultry feline purr) a wanted cat, wandering around the barren deserts and Wild West towns which comprise the Latino inspired world he calls home. He’s an outlaw, trying to clear his name for a crime he never committed. His quest leads him to a backwater town where he struts into a dingy and incredibly dangerous looking bar. His looming shadow through the saloon’s swinging doors installs a sense of fear into the local patrons, however, once his diminutive stature is revealed they mock him, displaying a degree of disrespect which will quickly come back to haunt them. Using a mixture of Zorro like swordsmanship and feline agility Puss soon puts the locals in their place and retires to a corner seat where his kicks back and enjoys a shot glass of whole cow’s milk (a fact that any self respecting cat owner will tell you is a fallacy, as cats are lactose intolerant, no doubt leaving poor puss with somewhat of a ‘dicky’ tummy during his upcoming high-octane adventure). He reveals his plans to make amends for his crime and asks these dim-witted barflies for any clues on upcoming heists which could clear his debt. After much deliberation (Puss is unwilling to steal from orphanages and churches) he hears word of a treasure he had long since given up on – magic beans. They’re currently in the possession of the infamous Jack and Jill (two rugged, overweight outlaws, voiced by Amy Sedaris and Billy Bob Thornton) so Puss fearlessly sets out to get his paws on them, however, his journey leads him to another feline outlaw, Kitty Soft Paws (Selma Hayek) and her accomplice – an unlikely criminal, whom Puss already has a long and difficult history with – Humpty ‘Alexander’ Dumpty (Zack Galifianakis).
This lively adventure is a surprisingly effective mixture of comedy, action and a genuinely moving narrative. The back story of how Humpty and Puss became brothers during their time growing up together in an orphanage, and how eventually their paths separated, is heartbreakingly beautiful, perfectly drawing the audience into the film’s farcical yet hugely enjoyable plot. As the story progress’s we’re taken on an emotional rollercoaster ride that perfectly complements the film’s more action packed swashbuckling scenes.
Puss in Boots, remains grounded in the fairytale realm of the films its central character originates from, yet also adds some delightful elements from Sergio Leone’s much loved Western films to create a bizarre amalgamation of childhood playfulness imbued with mature themes. From Puss’ nicknames of ‘Frisky Two-Times’ and El Diablo Gato, to his Cat Nip smuggling antics (It’s apparently for his glaucoma!) there’s certainly a more risqué element to the film which sets it aside as more than just a lazily conceived companion piece. Indeed, parent and children will find plenty to enjoy in this incredibly well rounded piece of family entertainment.
Puss in Boots, like the majority of modern children’s movies have been filmed in 3D. What normally seems like a financially approved gimmick to garnishes a few extra pounds from weary parents, for once actually enhances the viewing experience. So often 3D is added as merely an afterthought to appease industry executives, yet here there are some incredibly imaginative uses of the medium. From the vast pan shot across a desolately beautiful desert which opens the film, to the numerous adrenaline fuelled fight scenes, the 3D is used sparingly and at the most appropriate moments. The fact that the film never lags also prevents the audience from become infuriated with the 3D glasses, with the film’s upbeat pace and lavish use of colour distracting from the notable imprints of these cheaply made, plastic glasses on the rim of the viewers
Whilst appealing to both adults and children, Puss in Boots will undoubtedly find a place in the heart of any cat lover. Despite continuing the myth that cats can drink milk (I can’t emphasis enough how bad for them this is) the film features numerous scenes that will have feline fanatics in tears of laughter. From Puss being distracted by a flashing light on the floor, to his affectionate purring and acrobatic agility there are numerous moments where these archetypal cat traits are perfectly captured, recreating these domesticated pets adventurous and inquisitive nature on screen.
Puss in Boots certainly isn’t without its flaws and frequently succumbs to the cliqued twists and turns often associated to child friendly films, however, it certainly holds it head high amongst the countless unimaginative family films which pollute our screens during this festive period. A genuinely enjoyable film that panders to both young and old in equal measures, Puss in Boots is one of those wonderfully rare films that parents will find themselves forced into seeing, yet come out having enjoyed it as much, if not more than their children.
Puss in Boots is out in cinemas 9th December 2011.
Director: Chris Miller
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis
Runtime: 90 mins