It has been over a decade since we got our last installment in the Shrek movie series. 2011 was a different world, when Puss in Boots debuted, riding a wave of fans clamoring for more fairytale stories from DreamWorks. Since then, many of the jokes and somewhat risqué dialogue in the Shrek films have been shamed, rather than celebrated. I am not sure what happened. It is as if the world decided that we should view the works of the past through the lens of the present, but still, Shrek and his menagerie of friends and foes hold a special place in many people’s hearts.
I have to admit that Puss in Boots was not exactly my favorite character from the films. While I like Antonio Banderas as an actor, his portrayal of the furry fighter just never connected with me. The accent was too much. His fighting style was too playful. And even in the moments where he was meant to be adorable (cue the cute kitty eyes), all I wanted was to see him get beat. I think deep down it was his cocky better-than-you attitude that did the character in for me.
While Shrek was stubborn and off-putting to start, the character made up for it by the end of the series, making him one of my favorite cartoon characters, ever. Donkey was always funny and lovable. Puss just oozed too much machismo for me to like. A shame, since the character could have been so much more.
In Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, we find the titular character struggling with the prospect of death. Early in the film, he defeats an angry giant, but is crushed by a large bell. As he is a cat, he only lost one of his nine lives, but a doctor lets him know that he has already used up eight, leaving him with no further chances.
Cocky as ever, Puss defies the doctor’s orders on the surface, but soon becomes obsessed with his plight. This leads him hiding from adventures and becoming a pet, where he meets a dog named Perrito (Harvey Guillén). However, when he finds out about a wishing star, he embarks on yet another journey to get his lives back.
Along the way, he reunites with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), his love interest from the first Puss in Boots film, as well as Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), the leader of the Three Bears Crime Family, who is also looking for the star.
As you can tell, I went into this film with a certain amount of disdain, but Puss in Boots: The Last Wish actually felt like a redeeming story for the character. Yes, Puss starts the movie off like normal, with his arrogant lifestyle. While he does experience fear for the first time, after realizing he will die forever upon his next death, it still didn’t feel like he had learned any lessons. But the arc of the movie finds him not only dealing with his own mortality, but also coming to terms with other fears in his life.
We find out that his fear of commitment caused him to abandon Kitty after the last film. And we also see that he does repent in a way for his selfish lifestyle, deciding to put someone else’s needs first before his own. It was a very pleasant change from the previous films and is a great start for him becoming a liked character in my book, going forward. If this is how Puss will be written and used now, as opposed to his 2011 style, there may be hope for the franchise yet, in my eyes.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish also made further changes to his style. Gone are many of the not so politically correct jokes from the Shrek era. The writers had a daunting task in front of them to clean up the style, as well as making the feature-length film appeal to both adults and kids alike. If they went too clean, they risked turning the movie into nothing more than a Made-for-TV special. And if not enough, the politically correct police on the internet would be all over them. Luckily, director Joel Crawford wove a splendid story with fun and laughs at the expense of the unneeded crude humor. It works amazingly well, and he should be commended for such a feat.
In my book, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish gets four out of five stars. The film is a great redemption story for a character that many saw as a boring and/or unlikable hero. Hopefully, DreamWorks will use this as a catalyst to continue the story of Puss in Boots and make him someone I want to see more of on the big screen. Time will tell.