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Since his introduction in Shrek 2, Puss in Boots has been a fun character to watch, from the swagger that comes with being voiced by Antonio Banderas to his inherent ability to use his “cute kitty” powers. But does he have the ability to carry a movie by himself? It turns out that the answer is a pretty enthusiastic, “Yes.”
In his first solo adventure, Puss in Boots goes on what seems to be an impossible mission, as he attempts to steal the legendary magic beans from the villainous Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris) and ascend the beanstalk so that he can pinch The Goose That Lays The Golden Eggs. Along for the journey is Puss’ half-brother Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galfianakis), with whom he has a sordid past, and Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), the greatest thief around.
Puss in Boots director Chris Miller was also responsible for Shrek the Third, but this film feels more like the first Shrek in its ability to appeal to both older and younger audiences. While some jokes will go over the young ones’ heads and some are a little too immature for the parents to laugh at, the movie is at its best when using absurdity to make the entire audience laugh at the same. There are some truly strange moments in the film – from a highly choreographed dance-fight to Humpty and Puss collecting beans as children (and I mean every kind of bean) – but it all strangely works.
The film also looks stunning, with 3D that perfectly captures the various landscapes, from the small villages to the high desert to the castle in the clouds. All of the characters are wonderfully textured, from the cat’s soft fur to Humpty’s hard shell, and the third dimension really makes you feel as though you can reach out and touch them. The most beautiful shot in the film is when the giant beanstalk grows, rising through a stunning aurora that will absolutely take your breath away.
But while Puss in Boots clocks it at a short 90 minutes even, there are pockets of the story that simply drag on too long. There are examples of this throughout the film, like a dance sequence around the campfire later in the movie, but the biggest culprit is Puss’ origin story, which is told in flashback. The brotherhood between the protagonist and Humpty Dumpty is important and Puss as a kitten is cute (adorable, actually), but it hurts the plot’s flow. While not catastrophic, tighter editing would have made the film work better as a whole.
Particularly in light of how disappointing both Shrek The Third and Shrek Forever After were, Puss in Boots is a revelation that could easily start a popular franchise all its own. Between last year’s How To Train Your Dragon and surprisingly solid Megamind, as well as Kung Fu Panda 2 from earlier this year, Dreamworks Animation is on a real roll and their newest film keeps that trend going.