Directed by: Chris Miller
Premise: A spin off of the Shrek movies. A swashbuckling cat (voice of Antonio Banderas) attempts to clear his name after he is mistaken as a thief.
What Works: Puss in Boots is much better than expected. Although the title character of Puss in Boots is drawn from the Shrek series and the story takes place in the same fairytale universe, this picture is better than at least half of the Shrek films. The sequels to Shrek got obnoxious very quickly in part because they overestimated the appeal of clever in-jokes and allusions to other movies and used that as a substitute for actual storytelling. Puss in Boots fixes both of those mistakes; it tones down the references to pop culture and stays focused on delivering an entertaining story. Puss in Boots has an abundance of humor, alternating between physical comedy, puns, and cat humor, and the mix makes the film appealing to a wide audience. The film also takes the time to establish its characters and develop the relationships between them. The Puss in Boots character is aided in his quest by a female cat (voice of Salma Hayek) and Humpty Dumpty (voice of Zach Galifianakis) and the relationships between these characters are more complicated and more interesting than a lot of the characters in Hollywood action films. This focus on character pays off very well in the ending which manages to devise meaningful choices for its characters that have surprisingly serious dramatic weight. The look of the animation in Puss and Boots is also impressive. This film has the same look as the Shrek films but there are a few scenes, particularly in the climax, that are extremely well done and combine terrific expressiveness by the characters with very textured backgrounds and a few grand visuals.
What Doesn’t: Puss in Boots does not hold many surprises. Most viewers will already know who Puss in Boots is before the film begins and a lot of what this character has to offer has already been seen in the Shrek films. Although Puss in Boots does tell an original story, it does not play on the conventions of fairytales the way that Shrek did nor does it reverse expectations as effectively as How to Train Your Dragon. As a result, a lot of Puss in Boots is predictable. Parents taking their kids to see Puss in Boots ought to be aware of the violence. To be fair, the violence in the picture is appropriate for the film’s intended audience and it is no more or less violent than the Mickey and the Beanstalk animated feature from 1947. But the climax does contain a few intense scenarios that could be reason for parents to watch this picture with their children.
Bottom Line: Puss in Boots is a fun family adventure. There isn’t much here that is new but the film does manage to tell an entertaining story with a steady stream of laughs and some compelling characters.
Episode: #364 (November 13, 2011)