Puss in Boots was nominated for Best Animated Film at the 84th Academy Awards and didn’t win. That’s a good thing, since if this was the best animated film of 2011, then 2011 was a really mediocre year for animated movies. Puss in Boots is okay, but it’s not award-winning material.
Puss in Boots is the outgrowth of the group behind Shrek figuring out how they can pull a few more dollars out of that tired old franchise. The title character (voiced with perfect machismo by Antonio Banderas) first showed up in 2004’s Shrek 2. Bearing no resemblance to the French fairy tale character of his origin, Puss is a Spanish swords…uh…cat. Think Zorro, but in a cat form. Deciding that Puss was in a dire need of an “origin story,” the Shrek team, lead by director Chris Miller, takes Puss out of the Shrek realm and into his own engaging, if predictable, adventure.
Following the Shrek formula of mixing fairy tale characters with a modern and ironic sense of humor, Puss in Boots, which takes place years before Shrek and Puss hook up, throws together the stories of Zorro, the Beanstalk (of “Jack and the” fame), Humpty Dumpty, and the goose that laid the golden egg, along with some very 2011-informed visual gags. Puss and his childhood friend, Humpty (Zach Galifianakis), live in an orphanage in…uh…Spain? They dream of golden eggs and stealing stuff. They have a falling out, and then later, when Puss is on the hunt for some magic beans, he and Humpty get back together to try to get the golden eggs…it really doesn’t matter. It’s an adventure story and there are funny scenes and action scenes and some attempt at psychological insight that doesn’t go very far.
Although the movie falls along fairy tale-type lines, with the bad guys being a brutish Jack (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jill (Amy Sedaris), they also throw in a little James Bond. Puss’ femme fatale foil is Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek). Puss, Humpty, and Kitty have some exciting chases in a box canyon, on top of a beanstalk, and in a castle in the clouds, and constantly throw out cat puns, quips, and ironic one-liners that do much to keep the barely 80 minutes of pre-credits plot moving along.
Things move fast and look good. The bad guys are bad and the good guys are good. Banderas is a great Puss, with the perfect voice for the suave and swashbuckling hero. There is really nothing to recommend the plot other than that it’s not bad and certainly serves as an okay place to hang the visual feast and one-liners. Plus, there are cats. Lots and lots of cats. So, if you love cats, cat jokes, cat puns, or going “awwwwwwww, kitty,” then you could do worse than giving this flick a shot.
Puss in Boots is a visually interesting film and seeing it on Blu-ray is the way to go. You get a crisp, clear picture, and the impressive effects are well displayed. There is also a lot of dancing, and certainly the sound supports the pulsing samba (or salsa or whatever) beat.
The extras for the Puss in Boots Blu-ray are primarily for children. Very young children. There is a picture-in-picture commentary type track called “Animators Corner” that provides storyboard and work-in-process versions of the scene you are seeing in the other picture box, along with some talking-head stuff from the producers, director, cast, animators, etc. about the particular scene or a related issue. It’s informative and one of the few things on the disc that will be of more interest to someone over age 10. If you want to go behind the scenes on a Dreamworks animated movie, this is a good step. You can also run the movie with a trivia track. Sometimes these provide inane comments, but this one was pretty informative.
The other big item on the Blu-ray is a 13-minute short called Puss in Boots: The Three Diablos. Much as there are no Shrek characters in Puss in Boots (other than Puss himself), Puss is the only carryover in this short. It involves three young, cute kittens who are also thieves. The story is pretty simplistic and skews towards the kiddie market more than the movie did, but it will please the cute-cat fans out there.
Rather than put anything else substantial on the disc, the producers provide two featurettes, roughly 10 minutes each, that were clearly used as advertising prior to the movie’s release. The main voice actors, producers, and directors talk about the character, the making of the movie, why the movie had to be made, and how lucky everyone was that it was, indeed, made. It’s the basic stuff of no real insight or interest. There are also about seven minutes of deleted scenes (storyboarded and voiced, but not animated). The interesting part of the deleted scenes is that they show a different direction that was considered for the story, as well as some different characters.
The rest of the items are either stupid or only for the very young. There are two easy games where you try to find the differences in two pictures or catch a light, and a pop-up book thing with the movie characters. The completely stupid Mad Libs-type game that lets you answer three or four things about a character and make up a new poem is just a waste of time. There is also something for the fans of making cats meows sound like a song, whoever you are. Finally, you can learn how to do the dance steps in one of the movie dances and hear the story of a cat in California that steals things out of people’s yards and brings them to his own yard. The connection to the movie is tenuous at best.
It’s not a great Blu-ray package, but it’s not a great movie either, just an enjoyable waste of an afternoon. The Blu-ray also contains a DVD and a digital copy, naturally.