This spin off from the Shrek franchise is built around Antonio Banderas doing that voice as the titular swashbuckling moggy. But Salma Hayek is underwhelming as Kitty Softpaws, further reduced to lack-lustre side-kick in the second half. Since all the best gags and fairy tale characters have been used up, we get a half-hearted villain in Humpty Dumpty, well animated, and well voiced by Zach Galifianakis, but no match for Prince Farquad.
Previously, we’ve raved about Up and Wall-E at the top of the animation league, but Shrek favourite Puss in Boots fell well short of high hopes and expectations. It is another technical tour-de-force form Spielberg’s Dreamworks studio, the Shrek style emboldened by the presence of Guillermo del Toro as executive producer; there can be no complaints in the quality of the animation or assembly of artwork, voice and musical talent.
However, this uneven hotch-potch of fairy tales for the kids and movie pastiches for the adults looks too much like a video game for long spells and runs out of decent gags half way through.
As a formula animation feature, Puss in Boots is so tightly plotted you could draw it on graph paper. An excellent first quarter opening sees Puss duelling with Cat-Woman inspired Kitty, with good dialog and sight gags, inventive animation and a fantastic feline Speak-Easy, The (G)litter Box.
In the second quarter, much as I hate to say this, but for a cartoon, Puss in Boots suffers from a rare fault; too much back-story. Falling into the cracks between The Master of Ballantrae, Stand By Me and the Goonies, it has cliches aplenty and Spielberg sentimentality laid on thick. The third quarter takes us into video game territory; stealing the magic beans to grow the beanstalk, to get to the giant’s castle, to steal the goose that lays the golden eggs.
The fourth quarter lapses into a messy, frenetic, but oddly not thrilling denouement; arrest, betrayal, jail-break, yet another video-game chase, partial Godzilla re-make and a literal cliff-hanger climax – which goes on far too long. The only thing missing is one character quoting Dickens: “It is a far, far better thing I do this day than I have ever done…”
For the most part, Banderas reprises the best of his Zorro performance and the familiar Puss in Boots tropes from Shrek, but this is disposable, slightly cynical stuff that needed a better plot and someone to put a red line through some terrible dialog. Before I think that maybe I’m getting too old for this, I may just dig out those favourite animations Up and Wall-E and remind myself what the best really look like. RC
Puss in Boots
Director: Chris Miller
Writers: Tom Wheeler, Brian Lynch, Will Davies
Genre: Action, Adventure, Animation, Kids & Family, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Comedy
Running time: 1 hr. 30 min.
Cast: Amy Sedaris, Antonio Banderas, Billy Bob Thornton, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis