Has it really been 11 years since we’ve last seen Puss in Boots on the big screen? Time flies. The original spin-off from the Shrek franchise made for a fun adventure that shows wisely that this adorable and deadly cat can lead his own movie while incorporating familiar fairytale elements. Not a film that paved the way for animation or one I remember too much from, but the positive response Puss in Boots received was so good few forgot it was even nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar. Going into the long-awaited sequel, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, I’m surprised this was finally being mode after hearing it’s been on and off for years. Not only that, but DreamWorks Animation’s track record for sequels could have been better lately. However, after the early it’d gained a month before its release, my interest peaked, especially after receiving a digital screener to catch it early. And I honestly couldn’t believe in saying Puss in Boots. The Last Wish is one of the most astonishing animated films of 2022 that brings life back into this series we’ve all waited for.
In the years following his last adventure, Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) hasn’t slowed down, continuing to be the fearless hero he’s known by. An outlaw. Hero, Legend. When danger comes his way, he’s practically unstoppable, wielding his sword and taking out bad at every corner. But after defeating a rock monster to save a village, Puss is crushed by a church bell, later discovering he now used up eight of his nine cat lives. To avoid death any longer, Puss sets out on a quest to find the mystical Last Wish in order to give him additional lives once more. He’s also joined by his former flame Kitty Softpaws (voiced by Salma Hayek Pinault) and a new friend who wants to become a therapy dog Perro (voiced by Harvey Guillén of What We Do In the Shadows). That is if he can get it first before Goldilocks (voiced by Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman, Samson Kayo) and “Big” Jack Horner (voiced by John Mulaney) catches up.
There’s so much enjoyment to get out of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, and it’s because it offers up a more memorable story this time around. Besides a few nods to Shrek, it stays perfect at standing on its own once more, with director Joel Crawford pleasing its audience for those 100 minutes that go by. But what makes this sequel better than the original is a considerable upgrade in the animation department. The style they brought here is absolutely stunning and made it seem like an illustrated storybook come to life with its blend of 2D and 3D, especially during its swashbuckling action sequences. All its visuals made the most in making them colorful through every frame, with solid inspirations to draw from recent favorites such as The Bad Guys (DreamWorks Animation’s previous outing) and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Just try to stay focused on the backgrounds during the third act.
Banderas again doesn’t disappoint in voicing Puss in almost 20 years since he first provided this character’s voice, and I think he’s at his best in this installment. We’re now seeing a Puss fearing death and running away from it by retiring and stepping into hiding as an in-house cat full of felines, growing a beard in the process. His chance to make this wish makes him want to explore life more. Everybody else does wonders with their work as well. Hayek Pinault returning as Kitty Softpaws is always a good match with Banderas whenever they team up. But nobody will not stop talking about Perro. This character was the real standout that gives the film its heart and probably the hardest laughs to come by, and Guillen’s work to make this innocent dog lovable will easily make this a new favorite sidekick from in the studio. But it also has one of my favorite comedians John Mulaney as a funny antagonist version of Jack Horner; Wagner Moura as the menacing bounty hunter Big Bad Wolf who’s hunting down Puss; and Florence Pugh (whose voice I can listen to all day) as a different Goldilocks with a surprising arc I didn’t expect to be touching by the end.
The aspect I wasn’t expecting to get out this was its profound message that is incorporated into recent family films nowadays. Leave it to screenwriters Tommy Swerdlow and Paul Fisher to have time to focus on the action and laughs to connect with the children, but it provides the main character, who isn’t as fearless as this appears to be, with a darker approach. Everybody is scared of death; that’s a major fear I’m still dealing with. But it comes through in a compelling enough narrative telling us to let life breathe into ourselves, making the most of the time we have on this Earth. And while it’s pretty predictable, it doesn’t matter when it’s fast-paced energy that makes it a film that shouldn’t be overlooked for a Best Animated Feature nomination.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is the most fun I had watching a DreamWorks film in years. This was a pleasant surprise that surpassed the original with a stunning animation style and wonderful vocal performances from everybody, especially Antonio Banderas. This could’ve been a straight-up cash-grab for a property near the path of forgotten, but it was the exact opposite when it’s nothing but entertaining.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish will release in theaters on December 21, 2022| Runtime: 100 Minutes| Rated PG for action/violence, rude humor/language, and some scary moments| Studio: Universal Pictures/ DreamWorks Animation.