When it was released in 2001, Dreamworks Animation’s Shrek was a huge box office success. With an estimated budget of $60 million, it eventually earned $484 million dollars worldwide. The story of an ogre (the titular Shrek) and his loudmouthed but loyal sidekick (Donkey) who are sent on a quest to retrieve a princess locked away in a tower guarded by a fearsome dragon captivated audiences everywhere, and rightly so. It cleverly incorporated a huge number of fairy tale characters in its plot, and made centuries old stories feel new and fresh. Of course, as you know, success means sequel and the Shrek franchise was no different; released in 2004, Shrek 2 was just as financially profitable as the first, making close to $1 billion dollars worldwide, but arguably the most memorable aspect about the film was the introduction of the Puss in Boots character. Voiced by Antonio Banderas, Puss melted the hearts of children and adults with a wide eyed look that can only be described as “cutest thing EVAR”. Now, Puss is the star of his own film, and whilst it’s not as intelligent as the series it derived from, it’s just as entertaining.
Far from the forest where he will eventually meet the lovable ogre, we learn that Puss was actually an orphan in Mexico. In the orphanage, he meets his best friend, Humpty Alexander Dumpty and they spend their time causing mischief and searching for the elusive magic beans that, according to legend, when planted, sprout a huge beanstalk that leads to a castle in the clouds. As they grow older, Puss grows tired of carrying out their petty crimes and wants nothing more to do with Dumpty’s ever increasing urge to take bigger risks. But when Dumpty tricks Puss into a crime so huge that it makes them both outlaws, Puss realises there’s only one way to make things right: find the beans and retrieve the golden eggs from inside the castle, and use them to pay back the town. What follows is an epic quest that re-unites old friends and stirs up old rivalries, whilst bringing a little love into Puss’ life in the form of Kittie Softpaws, a sneaky thief with the softest paws known to man. But with the past still fresh in Puss’ memory, can he fully trust the unreliable but apparently regretful Dumpty?
Antonio Banderas reprises his role as the voice of the adorable feline, and it’s genius casting. He’s effectively channeling the Zorro character that he first played in 1998 into a cat, and it works brilliantly. Zach Galifinakis provides the voice of Humpty Dumpty, and because I didn’t know this before watching the film, I spent the most of the film being bugged by the familiarity of his voice but not quite being able to put a face to it; especially when it’s coming from an egg. Nonetheless, his vocal talents are welcome, and are an excellent (you don’t know how difficult it was to hold back an egg pun there) fit for the character; I was left genuinely wondering whether Dumpty’s intentions were good or bad, right up until the end. Salma Hayek (The Faculty, From Dusk Till Dawn) is perfect as the seductive and talented thief Kittie Softpaws, and the character itself has enough personality to be more than just the generic love interest/distraction. Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa, The Man Who Wasn’t There) and Amy Sedaris (Elf, Chicken Little) lend their voices to the villainous Jack and Jill (yes, that Jack and Jill, although much, much older) who are originally in possession of the magic beans.
As most of you know by now (those who have taken the gamble of watching a film in 3D when the option is available anyway) 3D can be very hit and miss. Fortunately, Puss in Boots utilizes the extra dimension fantastically, and there are moments throughout that will delight children with their “popping out of the screen” effect, whereas parents/adults will marvel in some of the scenes painstakingly crafted depth and detail. Pixar usually get all the credit for animation, but Dreamworks are a formidable force to be reckoned with; just watch the almost flawless How To Train Your Dragon, or, of course, Shrek for unquestionable proof.
My only gripes are that the flashback scene does drag a little, and there’s more than one occasion of these. Also, there seemed to be a few too many male genitalia jokes/references throughout; it seemed like in its attempt to cater for both young and old, the latter have to, on occasions, make do with vulgarity instead of intelligent wit.
But those are just small nitpicking points in what is largely a hugely enjoyable film; the plot is fulfilling and the script is tight, with exciting action set pieces and an protagonist that you can’t help but root for whilst simultaneously “awwww”ing. Oh, and keep an eye out for the cat in the dance fight who gives Puss a run for his money when it comes to being adorable.