Genre: CG Animation
Director: Joel Crawford
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Olivia Colman, Harvey Guillén, Samson Kayo, Wagner Moura, Anthony Mendez, John Mulaney, Florence Pugh, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Ray Winstone
Runtime: 1 hr 42 mins
Rating: PG (Some Frightening Scenes)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 8 December 2022
Synopsis: This fall, everyone’s favorite leche - loving, swashbuckling, fear-defying feline returns. For the first time in more than a decade, DreamWorks Animation presents a new adventure in the Shrek universe as daring outlaw Puss in Boots discovers that his passion for peril and disregard for safety have taken their toll. Puss has burned through eight of his nine lives, though he lost count along the way. Getting those lives back will send Puss in Boots on his grandest quest yet. Academy Award ® nominee Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious PiB as he embarks on an epic journey into the Black Forest to find the mythical Wishing Star and restore his lost lives. But with only one life left, Puss will have to humble himself and ask for help from his former partner and nemesis: the captivating Kitty Soft Paws (Oscar ® nominee Salma Hayek). In their quest, Puss and Kitty will be aided — against their better judgment — by a ratty, chatty, relentlessly cheerful mutt, Perro (Harvey Guillén, What We Do in the Shadows ). Together, our trio of heroes will have to stay one step ahe ad of Goldilocks (Oscar ® nominee Florence Pugh, Black Widow ) and the Three Bears Crime Family, “Big” Jack Horner (Emmy winner John Mulaney , Big Mouth ) and terrifying bounty hunter, The Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura, Narcos)
11 years is a long time to wait for a follow-up to the ‘Shrek’ prequel/ spinoff ‘Puss in Boots’, but that’s how long it has taken for DreamWorks Animation to complete this belated sequel. In fact, it’s been close to two decades since the swashbuckling ginger cat with a tiny sword, a smart pair of boots, and an adorable air of enormous kitten eyes first made his appearance in ‘Shrek 2’, but those old (or young) enough to remember will be glad to know that ‘The Last Wish’ embraces its parent franchise's penchant for reinventing fairy tale characters with tongue firmly in cheek.
As the title suggests, ‘The Last Wish’ sees Puss confronting his own mortality after exhausting eight of his nine lives. An elaborate opening sequence reminds us of the fearless feline hero we had come to know Puss as, not only against a whole army of guards serving the governor whose house he just thrashed with a rowdy party, but also against a mighty beast the fireworks Puss had intentionally set off awakens. Proving how he is both a master and slave to irony, Puss is killed by a stray falling bell after slaying the ston, and after regaining consciousness at the town physician’s examination room, is advised that he needs to make some lifestyle changes.
Puss is nonplussed (pardon the pun) until he is visited that evening at the bar by the grim reaper, who appears in the form of a cloaked big-bad-wolf bounty hunter (Wagner Moura) wielding two scythe blades. To escape the reaper, Puss buries his signature outfit and takes refuge in the home of self-described ‘cat fancier’ Mama Luna (Da’Vine Joy Randolph). Puss’ initial indignation at having to eat and defecate together with three dozen or so other strays slowly gives way to resignation and even despair, so much so that not even meeting a mangy, nameless mutt in kitty disguise in a place like Mama Luna's piques his curiosity.
He is though jolted by the sudden appearance one day of a crime family comprising Papa Bear (Ray Winstone), Momma Bear (Olivia Colman), a not-so-diminutive Baby Bear (Samson Kayo) and a teenage Goldilocks (Florence Pugh), who turn up at Mama Luna’s looking for the legendary Puss. The said Goldilocks and the Three Bears have learnt of a map in the possession of the vain and villainous Jack Horner (John Mulaney), which will show the way to a shooting star that has landed in the dark forest and will grant whoever reaches it first a wish.
Though Puss eschews being part of their criminal enterprise, the feline sets off to steal the map to locate the Wishing Star on his own, hoping that he would be able to wish all his lives back. Unfortunately for Puss, things get even more complicated when he encounters his former girlfriend and occasional foil Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) while breaking into Jack’s residence. And just because they find themselves up against both Jack and Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Puss and Kitty become unwitting partners on the quest into the forest, with the aforementioned therapy dog Perrito (Harvey Guillen) along for company, encouragement and sunny optimism.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that ‘The Last Wish’ packs plenty of frenetic action from start to finish, in order that it does not come off boring or tedious to its younger audience demographic. What is unexpected though is how director Joel Crawford and screenwriters Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow weave in a mature and complex story about facing death in order to fully embrace life. That is not just what Puss comes to learn but also in why Goldilocks is after the same wishing star, and the grace and wisdom by which it delivers its life-affirming message is not something we’d typically associate with Dreamworks.
Just as delightful to see is how the Dreamworks’ animators switch up various styles to play up the tonal shifts over the course of the movie. From the first big fight with a stone giant, to Puss’ confrontation with the Big Bad Wolf, and finally to the forest that acts as a mirror of the person holding the map, we are treated to a vibrant blend of standard computer imagery and hand-drawn animation. Like ‘Into the Spiderverse’, ‘The Last Wish’ also plays with frame rates and painterly looks to give the overall film an expressionistic storybook quality. It is eye-popping to say the least, and a genuine visual treat.
And perhaps most importantly of all, ‘The Last Wish’ boasts the one and only Antonio Banderas as the silky voice of Puss. Channelling not only the character’s grandiose ego but also his very real insecurities, Banderas brings depth, emotion and gravitas to the titular feline. He is also complemented by an equally outstanding supporting voice cast, including a terrifically menacing Moura as the Big Bad Wolf, an irresistibly adorable Guillen as Perrito, and an utterly beguiling Hayek with whom Banderas shares beautiful chemistry.
So though it may have taken slightly more than a decade for this follow-up, it is certainly worth the wait for both fans of the original ‘Shrek’ franchise and those discovering its formula of playfully reimagining classic fairy tales for the first time. Though things did get a little stale after ‘Shrek Forever After’ was done and dusted in 2011, ‘The Last Wish’ proves that a ‘Shrek’ universe reboot might be ripe with just the right amount of creative ingenuity. You’d love Puss, so too Kitty and Perrito, and also Jack, Goldilocks and even a scene-stealing, conscience-voicing Talking Cricket, and we’d dare say by the end of it, you’d wish this weren’t the last you’ll see of Puss or his standalone adventures.
(Clever, poignant and utterly hilarious, this gorgeously animated 'Puss in Boots' sequel represents the best of the 'Shrek' franchise)
Review by Gabriel Chong