‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ Review – A Wonderfully Animated, Laughably Entertaining Adventure
After exhausting eight of his nine lives, Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) is now hunted by a wolf bounty hunter (Wagner Moura) that intends to end the self-righteous legend once and for all. A fallen star has crashed in the middle of the dark forest and whoever finds it gets whatever wish they desire. Puss sets out on an adventure to restore his former glory as a hero, but unfortunately for him, he’s not the only one with his paws set on swiping that wish.
The Shrek franchise is a muddled one at best. The first film is fantastic and Shrek 2 is decent while Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After just drain a tired ogre’s swamp for everything it’s worth.
The overall disappointment with where the franchise headed in later sequels put off the desire to ever see the 2011 Puss in Boots film. However, it may be worth a visit now since Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is so exceptionally great and the best animated film of the year.
Directed by Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado (The Croods: A New Age) with a story by Tommy Swerdlow (The Grinch) and Tom Wheeler (Puss in Boots) and a screenplay by Paul Fisher (The Lego Ninjago Movie) and Tommy Swerdlow, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has an animation style that is drastically different from the realistic style you’ve come to associate with Shrek and Puss in Boots.
Utilizing drastic perspectives, action sequences that slow down to emphasize major blows before speeding up again, and different frame rates to give characters and enemies unique movements, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is visually similar to the likes of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Bad Guys.
The film is essentially a race to the star to see who can get the wish first. Puss is accompanied by a female cat named Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek). Their troubled past keeps them in constant conflict. When Puss briefly retires as a hero, he meets a therapy dog named Perrito (Harvey Guillen) who is now convinced they are best friends, is happy about everything, and doesn’t want to wish for anything.
Standing in the way of Puss and his wish is the criminal masterminds Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), Mama Bear (Olivia Colman), and Baby Bear (Samson Kayo) and the relentless and magic-obsessed Jack Horner (John Mulaney).
Like Shrek, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish toys with being more adult than the average animated film. Visually dark at times with flashes of red and orange and constant close encounters with death, The Last Wish also deals with more mature dialogue with both, “crap,” and, “hell,” being muttered on at least one occasion and Baby being referred to as a “dingleberry.”
Perrito also gets bleeped for his heavier use of vulgarity. One of his more memorable sequences is when a long line of bleeps covers up his insults about the three bears.
Hearing John Mulaney as a villain of any film, animated or otherwise, is a bit odd and takes some getting used to. Mulaney is no stranger to animation as a regular on Big Mouth and as the voice of Chip in this year’s Disney+ exclusive film Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers. But this is the first time Mulaney hasn’t exaggerated his voice into that nasal tone you’ve come to expect from Andrew Glouberman or even Mulaney’s own standup.
Mulaney is more relaxed here as Jack Horner, which only makes his angry outbursts all the more unsettling. Bits of comedy still drip through Horner’s dialogue, but the character is mostly heartless and Mulaney delivers a startling performance to match.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio explored a familiar tale with a different concept; the wooden boy never wanted to be human. Pinocchio is the only character in the film not controlled by strings.
In a conceptually similar fashion, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish dives into loving the life you have and appreciating every day as if it’s your last rather than relying on a wish to make everything better for you.
While the humor is often laugh-out-loud funny, Puss actually goes through some severe character development over the course of The Last Wish. He matures and goes in an unexpected direction.
The way the film reopens the door to future installments is masterfully subtle in a way that doesn’t feel like obvious sequel bait, as well.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is stylish and fun with sleek animation, a thrillingly adventurous story, off-the-wall humor, and fantastic writing that is penned in a way that rejuvenates what was thought to be a dead CGI animated franchise.