Puss in Boots Review
Puss in Boots is a 2011 animated adventure comedy film directed by Chris Miller and starring Antonio Banderas, Zach Galifianakis and Selma Hayek. It is a spin-off of the Shrek franchise and it is one of DreamWorks best and most underrated films.
It follows Puss who, along with his friends, goes in search of the legendary magical beans that are worth a great fortune. But it mostly focuses on his tumultuous relationship with his childhood best friend Humpty Dumpty. That is the film’s biggest strength that sets it apart from other films of the company. By focusing on that relationship, the film becomes much more mature and more heartwarming than I expected from a spinoff of a pretty emotionally detached franchise. That relationship is the heart of the movie and the reason why I love it so much.
Puss is so well realized here and this is a great example of how to properly do a spin-off of a franchise and how to properly treat its hero. He is so well developed and well fleshed out and feels like a genuine person and never just a funny, lovable cartoon cat. But the newly introduced characters are all so great with Kitty Softpaws being well realized and the relationship that develops between the two is expected, but still nice. And of course Humpty Dumpty is the most intriguing character of the bunch with such a great backstory, excellent interactions with other characters and fascinating, unique personality. Jack and Jill are pretty good themselves and whenever they appear, they are frequently hilarious. This movie has no other major characters and while it does feel a bit empty at times, that choice was still excellent as it lead to a better rounded storyline and better development of the existing characters.
Puss in Boots has a story that is never particularly original, but what is new is the approach with some nice music and western themes. I loved how the film is a mix of adventure and western with humor thrown in for good measure. What is also very commendable is its origin story which is, unlike most, actually emotional and well executed for once. Yes, it is typical, but it is still such a stupendous use of this tired plot device that introduces you to the characters and makes you care for them. I also loved the ending here which is so bold and it is so great that DreamWorks went into that darker territory once again after magnificent ‘How To Train Your Dragon‘. That is one of the highlights here along with the opening and the sky scenes which are visually stunning to behold. The movie has such a great adventurous tone to it that is so rarely found in today’s animated blockbusters which is all the more reason why I loved it immensely.
The animation is one of the highlights. This isn’t on the level of ‘How To Train Your Dragon‘ or ‘Kung Fu Panda‘, but it is still one of the best animations ever from the studio as it is so pleasant to watch. It is colorful, but pleasantly so and the look is polished with amazing aerial shots and desert sequences. The character design also looks absolutely amazing with the design of Humpty Dumpty being the highlight. And the attention to detail is evident along with excellent world-building.
Puss in Boots is technically a deft feature with good directing and superb voice work. Antonio Banderas is so incredibly good as he was born to play this role and Selma Hayek isn’t on his level, but still did a solid job. Zach Galifianakis is terrific as well. Everyone is good here. The imagery is amazing and sometimes breathtaking to behold. I just loved this world throughout the whole running time which is reasonably short and never too prolonged or rushed. The action is solid, but overwhelming and I wished that the pace wasn’t as fast as it was. There are some scenes that are too action-oriented and I wanted to just stare at the scenery more, but there wasn’t the time for the most part and that was definitely the problem.
But the emotional engagement is evident as the movie has a lot of heart and it is also inherently charming with just lovable characters that you root for from start to finish. The score is also one of the best from the studio as it is for once devoid of any usual modern trappings, but rather relies on exotic Latino music that fits into this universe like a glove. The movie may seem predictable at times, but the ending is not like that and that I appreciated a lot. And I found the that it hit the right mix of childlike wonder and adult jokes as it has those, but is mostly wonderfully adventurous and charming which are the qualities that DreamWorks needs to possess more.
The dialogue in Puss in Boots is solid and the tone is well handled, but the humor could have been better. Yes, it has some funny lines that are both mature and charming, but the film isn’t nearly as funny as it could have been and that is a flaw that I found here as the franchise that it spins is definitely funnier. Speaking of the Shrek franchise, I really found this movie to be the best entry and I know that I am in a minority, but I enjoyed it much better than even ‘Shrek‘ or ‘Shrek 2‘ and it trumps both of them by a large degree. It is rare that a spin-off gets to be better than the original films, but Puss in Boots manages to be just that and that is such an incredible achievement. It is on my list of the top ten movies from DreamWorks Animation and it is naturally one of the most underappreciated flicks from the studio in my opinion.