Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (2022)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: December 21st, 2022 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Joel Crawford, Janual Mercado Actors: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Harvey Guillen, Florence Pugh, John Mulaney, Wagner Moura, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo, Olivia Colman, Da’Vine Joy Randolph

 


 

“O

nce upon a time, a wishing star fell from the sky … ” Its impact spawned the Dark Forest, where a single wish buried deep within its midst waits to be found. Meanwhile, the land’s favorite hero, the legendary, fearless Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas), a.k.a. “The Leche Whisperer,” attends a fiesta in his honor, where he not-so-reluctantly sings and strums his guitar to a cheering crowd. But the venue is actually in the governor’s home – and Puss in Boots is an outlaw. And so he must sword-fight his way to safety, all while the undulating gathering cheers him on and plays him some exit music. But the fireworks-spewing festivities awaken a forest giant, who tears the roof from the building, requiring additional spontaneous feline heroism.

Strangely, the animation style is immediately different – and jarring (intentionally copying the style of previous, successful releases from DreamWorks). It’s reminiscent of anime, but in three-dimensions, yet colored and stylized in somewhat flat shading. Although it’s modern and crisp and unnaturally well-lit, it doesn’t fit with the rest of the series. The animated motions are still as before, but fur, clothing, feathers, elemental effects, and other textures and costumes don’t move as realistically as expected; and action sequences employ motion embellishment imagery like something from a hand-drawn comic strip. Even the villains possess a curious video-game-like cut-scene quality.

“No more adventures for you. You need to retire.” At least the initial setup is amusing: Puss has lost track of how many of his lives he’s used up, and is now on his ninth and final one, forcing him to reconsider his daredevilry. Perhaps he needs to seek out Mama Luna (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), who runs a cat sanctuary, where he can become a lap pet. But bounty hunters are still hot on his trail and aren’t likely to let him remain in peace.

A few characters return (including some flashback shots of Puss’ prior undertakings), such as Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault), but the creative riffs on fairy tales aren’t as prevalent as they used to be. Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and her three-bear crime family are moderately engaging, but Perro (Harvey Guillen), a dog pretending to be a cat, doesn’t come from a discernibly famous source – and he’s an integral part of this story. And though Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney) does originate from a recognizable nursery rhyme, his character design leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, virtually all of the new characters are visually disagreeable, including supporting henchmen and one-scene walk-ons (save for a conscientious bug doing a Jimmy Stewart impression); the typical combination of scary and cute and funny doesn’t apply much here. Even the voice acting isn’t as exaggerated or as endearing as anticipated – like with the previous pictures’ Gingerbread Man.

Most disappointing, however, is the humor. There’s a family-friendly theme of embracing one’s softer side, as well as the power and importance of friendships, but the much-needed, generally dependable laughs aren’t as frequent or as clever as they should be. The central romance between Kitty and Puss isn’t particularly charming either, while the sense of adventure is continually thwarted by uninspired action choreography and stretches of a treasure map path that often feel like filler to elongate a short subject into a feature. The climax, too, suffers from repetition and poorly defined, bland ideas. The production as a whole just isn’t funny or exciting enough to warrant another Puss in Boots episode. “Why are you so ridiculous?”

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10