‘Puss in Boots’ Purrs
Dreamworks has always been trailing behind Pixar in terms of success in the animation industry, but they have always had the “Shrek” franchise to rely on for the most recognition and merchandising for the kids. However, the lack of capitalizing on both the critical and commercial success of the first two “Shrek” films has brought the series down a few notches. On the other hand, it was only a matter of time until fan favorite Puss in Boots got his own spin-off.
Before he met Shrek and Donkey, Puss (Antonio Banderas) was a swashbuckling hero who protected the innocent of the San Ricardo village. However, he was roped into becoming an outlaw alongside his sidekick Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). After a botched job, he becomes an wanted outlaw on the run until Humpty pleads him into doing one more job with the help of the swift Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) to rob Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris respectively).
Even when the “Shrek” films started going downhill, Puss still had his moments to shine, and this film does great justice to his character. In addition, nobody has the ability to voice this character any better than Antonio Banderas does. Puss always has the perfect amount of charisma and charm to entertain the viewer, and Banderas’ stints as El Mariachi in the “Mexico” trilogy and the titular Zorro enhances his vocal performance even more.
Salma Hayek also provides great vocal work for Kitty Softpaws. Hayek has collaborated on several occasions with Banderas in the past, and even in the animated department, she and Banderas still have great chemistry with other. In addition, her background of playing a femme fatale in the aforementioned trilogies she starred in alongside Banderas transitions very well to this film.
Zach Galifianakis provides decent voice work to the character Humpty Dumpty, but he also annoyed me at several points, too. I don’t why, but every film I’ve seen him in after his success in “The Hangover” has amused me at certain times, but then annoyed for certain paths his type-casted characters took. Funny how that trend has followed him into animated films, too.
As usual, Dreamworks continues to assert their position as one of the top animation companies in Hollywood, especially with this film. The animation of the characters features great detail, from their bodies’ texture to the color schemes, and the scenery landscapes are stunning at times, especially in the desert scenes.
The comedy is never too kid-oriented, and instead the film focuses more on establishing the jokes on clever writing instead of childish slapstick. There are lots of cat puns, so be prepared if you’re not too keen on an overload of similar jokes occurring every five minutes or so. Even the adults will be able to pinpoint several jokes that are more their speed, especially a scene that involves Puss being in the possession of catnip.
However, despite the fun there is to be had with this film, it has its fair share of flaws. First off, the villains Jack and Jill are very poorly developed, as they’re in only five scenes during the entire film. When you have Billy Bob Thornton voicing a villain, you have a lot of potential to create a villain that’s not just menacing, but also has a smart, deadpan comedic side. Unfortunately this film treats him and co-star Amy Sedaris like they’re a complete joke.
In addition, there are severe pacing issues once the film crosses into the 20 minute mark. The back story of the relationship between Puss and Humpty Dumpty felt like it went on for far too long, as its length felt like it should’ve been a short film feature on the special features of this film’s Blu-ray/DVD. Also, when it comes to the adventure part, the pacing really slows down and tends to focus more on Humpty Dumpty than Puss.
In spite of the numerous flaws, “Puss in Boots” is still a fun, entertaining and harmless family film with lots of clever comedy and adventurous action. Although it doesn’t rank up with the first two “Shrek” films, it sure does make up for the extremely mediocre last two installments combined. It’s a film that’s bound to be enjoyed by both kids and their parents, and if you decide this film’s not your type then Puss will pull his “sad eyes” treatment on you until the guilt finally eats away at you.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5