Film Review: Puss in Boots (3D)

Puss in Boots certainly isn’t the best animated film of 2011. Its action set pieces aren’t as jaw dropping as those in Rango (my review), and it doesn’t have the heartstring tugging of Rio (my review) or even Kung Fu Panda 2 (my review) – this year’s other big DreamWorks Animation release. This said, Puss in Boots is the supporting character spin-off that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (my review) should have been: a fast-paced action-adventure that’s free from bloat, doesn’t skimp on magic, and is as feather-light as its feline hero’s ginger fur.

Despite a surprisingly risqué (but very funny) start, Puss in Boots is suitable for audiences of all ages. In fact, refreshingly free of fart and poop jokes, the film’s only real concession to littlies (or anyone else) with an unsophisticated sense of humour is a squeaky voice sequence. Puss in Boots doesn’t aim low for laughs; instead it’s a remarkably, and consistently, witty piece of family entertainment.

As an offshoot from the Shrek quadrilogy, Puss in Boots wastes no time in establishing its own unique identity. The film blends fairy tale, crime caper and, most obviously, Sergio Leone Westerns. Charming outlaw Puss, voiced oh so smoothly by Antonio Banderas, lives life on the run, but his past catches up with him when childhood friend, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) recruits him for the score of a lifetime. Joining forces with master thief Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), the trio set out to rob brutish Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris) of a magical “key” that will give them access to gold beyond belief.

Puss in Boots is unexpectedly and strongly story driven, keeping its laser focus on the three leads. Frankly I would have been happy if the entire film had just been Puss swashbuckling and womanising around red, parched Spain. However, as with Kung Fu Panda 2 earlier this year, Guillermo del Toro is onboard as executive producer and you feel that the filmmaker’s involvement in Puss in Boots has resulted in the prioritising of narrative ahead of gags and loosely linked set-pieces (the failing of later Shrek films). As with Kung Fu Panda 2 though, the extended back story sequence in Puss in Boots isn’t particularly original – even if it dutifully provides the characters with some much needed motivation.

Performance-wise, the actors are all great matches for their characters without their off-screen personalities overpowering the on-screen CGI-creations. Banderas is once again spot-on as Puss, but then again he’s had enough practice by now. Galifianakis's Humpty Dumpty meanwhile, is creepily intense, although personally I would have preferred less of the waddling, square-toothed egg and more of the comically domestic Jack and Jill.

It’s also worth noting that Puss in Boot’s Spanish setting adds a great deal to the film’s charm. Not only is plenty of humour gleaned from the language (“El Gato Diablo!”), but the dance numbers feature lots of Latino flair – Kitty Softpaws is VERY alluring and limber for a cartoon cat. Further adding to the package, there’s the up-tempo traditional soundtrack with standout hits from Rodrigo y Gabriela and Lady Gaga.

If you can skip the pointless 3D version, and find a cinema showing the 2D version instead, Puss and Boots is ideal festive season fare – undemanding, light-hearted and well crafted. Animated movie lovers of all ages certainly won’t need to be convinced to watch Puss in Boots, but the film is also recommended for cat lovers... as well as parents looking for animated entertainment that they’ll enjoy as much as, if not even more so, than their kids.


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