Puss in Boots (2011)
Directed by: Chris Miller
Written by: Brian Lynch, Charles Perrault, Tom Wheeler, William Davies
Starring: Amy Sedaris, Antonio Banderas, Billy Bob Thornton, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis
PUSS IN BOOTS
DIRECTED BY: Chris Miller
WRITTEN BY: Will Davies, Brian Lynch, David H.Steinberg, Tom Wheeler, Jon Zack
STARRING: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifinakis, Billy Bob Thornton
RUNNING TIME: 90 mins
DISTRIBUTED BY: Paramount Pictures
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Puss in Boots is an outlaw and a hit with the ladies. After one typical amorous exploit, he escapes a bounty hunter and travels to another town, where he initially gets a frosty reception. He learns that the outlaw couple Jack and Jill have the magic beans he’s been looking for most of his life, beans that can lead him to a giant’s castle holding valuable golden goose eggs. The outlaws spend a night in the town but when Puss tries to steal the beans from them, he finds he is competing with another cat, Kitty Softpaws. She is allied with Humpty Alexander Dumpty, a talking egg and Puss’ long-estranged childhood friend from the orphanage where he was raised. They set out to steal the beans and take the eggs………
Considering the plethora of follow ups to existing films both planned and already made, it seems that both Pixar and Dreamworks are running a little short of ideas, but you can’t blame Dreamworks for milking their wonderful Shrek franchise just a little. After Shrek, the character that people probably most think of from the films is probably Donkey, but there’s no doubt that Puss In Boots had more potential for a standalone story, and it’s possible that an hour and a half of Eddie Murphy doing his thing would grate; often comic relief characters are best left as comic relief characters. So Puss in Boots it is then, and this movie was originally planned as a straight to DVD effort. I’m pleased that they changed their mind, because this is a fine slice of animated fun, an inventive, exciting fantasy adventure that should please most adults as well as their kids, though if you expect another film like Shrek there’s a chance you may be disappointed. Puss In Boots certainly has laughs and a fairly irreverent tone, but it’s not as constantly humorous as the Shrek movies, and doesn’t even have much of the expected pop culture references.
Bearing little resemblance to the fairy tale and mixing in elements of Humpty Dumpty and Jack And The Beanstalk, Puss in Boots comes across even more as an outlandish twist on Zorro, what with its Mexican flavour and its title character constantly jumping around and showing how adept he is with a sword. Obviously this was intentional since Antonio Banderas, who voices Puss, played Zorro, though Puss In Boots in this movie comes across as a combination of Zorro and Don Juan; he’s even first presented to us saying farewell to his latest conquest, not to mention stuff about his supposed sexual prowess. Parents don’t worry though; Puss In Boots never crosses into being too crude and obvious for this type of film, and at first the pace is so fast, the movie never seems to pause to catch its breath. There is a great chase which turns into a ‘dance fight’ between Puss and Kitty, a scene of great inventiveness which gets more and more outlandish and which you don’t want to end. Eventually the film does slow down for a lengthy flashback, and am the only one getting tired of every other animated film having explanatory flashbacks to explain why a certain character is the way they are? Still, this sequence does have a lovely moment where Puss and Humpty lie on the grass, dreaming of possible adventures to come, and see a cloud forming the shape of a giant goose.
This leads to the tremendous middle section, where the trio embark on their adventure up the beanstalk to the castle in the clouds [not called Laputa though]. The bit where the beanstalk shoots up into the sky with them on it is tremendously exciting, not to mention extremely vertiginous, and the colours, which previously have been mainly brown and yellow, now turn to bright green, blue etc. There is a wonderful feel of escapist fantasy, a sense of anything being possible, encapsulated in the group flying on a cloud, yet accepting it as nothing out of the ordinary! It’s almost a shame that they all have to return to Earth, and the climax involving a giant goose doesn’t seem thought through. The film’s humour seems a little forced too at times, with scenes just ending with a laugh that don’t need to; obviously this is thought necessary to keep the kids occupied. How To Train Your Dragon was also like this; an essentially serious fantasy actioner with jokes randomly thrown in, resulting in tonal inconsistency. Some of the things in Puss In Boots, like Humpty’s childish antics and Puss doing cat-like things like chasing lights, drinking milk etc, are funny, but I’m not sure every single animated film needs lots of this kind of thing, and I didn’t think this particular one did.
I didn’t see Puss in Boots in 3D, as I don’t like paying the extra cash [unless it’s something that seems like a must in the format, like Hugo], but even in 2D the many scenes where we travel over landscapes and follow participants as they jump and fall are quite impressive, and I would imagine the 3D does actually work quite well. The actual animation is mostly excellent, but there is the odd bit that seems unfinished, I’m not sure why. Characterisation is spot on and sometimes quite interesting, with surprisingly sympathetic villains. Henry Jackman, one of the most promising of up-and-coming film composers, provides a fantastic Spanish-flavoured score with some catchy themes. It’s one of the best scores of the year. You could say that Puss In Boots is an animated film of few surprises. Generally it’s much less ambitious than the last three Dreamworks outings, perhaps due to its origins [though that’s not automatically a bad thing]. It is, though, a thoroughly entertaining ride that is hard to dislike, whether you’re seven or seventy!