Review: Puss in Boots (2011)

Puss in Boots

Rating

Director
Chris Miller
Screenplay
Will Davies, Bryan Lynch, David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler, Jon Zack (Characters: Charles Perrault)
Length
90 min.
Starring
Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Constance Marie, Guillermo del Toro
MPAA Rating
PG for some adventure action and mild rude humor

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Review
He was the character that defined Shrek 2, yet when cast in his own film, Puss in Boots lacks the charm and chutzpah that made him such the exciting and entertaining character.

Still trapped in the fairy tale world established by the Shrek franchise, this spin-off film shifts its focus onto the sad-eyed, feisty Puss (voiced again by Antonio Banderas) as he relates the story of his childhood and the adventure that awaits the audience. On the trail of a handful of magic beans that will lead him into the clouds where a mystical goose lays golden eggs, Puss is challenged by a fellow feline filcher Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) who draws him into a complicated plot to reunite him with his former pal Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) who wants to rekindle their childhood ploy to seize the golden goose and become celebrated in their home town.

After we are shown why Humpty and Puss had a falling out, Humpty betrayed Puss in order to perform one last heist while Puss, while they escaped from the law, left him behind to be collected by the guards.

The film travels in expected directions under director Chris Miller’s hand. Having produced the franchise-worst Shrek the Third, Miller seems an ill-fitted choice for this new saga. Instead of focusing the story on Puss and his Zorro-esque milieu, writer Will Davis, Bryan Lynch, David H. Steinberg, Tom Wheeler and Jon Zack maintain the fairy tale world to the film’s disservice.

What could have been seems to be a defining characteristic of the flagging Shrek franchise. After two outstanding initial outings, the series’ comic capabilities dried up and the husk of animation felt tarnished and pedantic. There’s a reason most animated films don’t pursue sequels; it’s a challenge to live up to the lofty expectations of the original.

Banderas’ vocal performance is by now second nature, having created an amusing character similar to many others he’s portrayed, but the real star of the film is Sayek whose creation of Kitty Softpaws is delightfully vague, sexy and tender. Compared that to the dismal work of Zach Galifianakis who makes Humpty feel like a grade D villain with no depth, an admitted flaw of a character written so haphazardly.

The film does have a few amusing moments, all centered around cats shifting form their anthropomorphic statures into the traditional feline failings. A laser pointer here, a litterbox dance there, each such scene only distracts the audience briefly from the bland proceedings around them. My friends and I have even started employing the running gag of “Oooohh” Cat whenever someone delivers delicious bon mots or a scatching critique.

When you separate out the plot elements of Puss in Boots from the diverting humor, you’re left with a pale immitation of an age-old plot that makes the classic fables of olde seem like pointless, sermonizing drivel with no clever or childhood development-integral directives. If you want to be entertained for a half hour, rent the film and skip all the hamfisted narrative threads and watch cats being cats, an inherently more engaging pursuit than the film as a whole can deliver. Or just go out to YouTube and find the myriad humorous cat videos that will no doubt have you laughing longer than the whole of Puss in Boots.
Review Written
November 18, 2011

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