20 November 2011 | DICK STEEL
A Nutshell Review: Puss in Boots
Shrek had run its course, having forcefully pushed itself into a fourth film that was really too trying, but I suppose Puss in Boots, introduced in the second film of the franchise, proved to have nine lives, and extended his longevity through a spin off film of his own. After all, there are plenty of cat lovers out there, and his antics in the Shrek movies were undoubtedly the highlights when the Ogre and his pet donkey were getting really tired. Originally intended for straight to video, Puss in Boots proved to have what it takes for a big screen outing, and it didn't disappoint.
Dreamworks Animation may seem to have a stranglehold on making a mickey out of well known fairy tales, and this continues in its re-imagining of characters adopted for the Puss in Boots origin story, where we go into his background as an orphaned kitty cat brought up by Imelda (voiced by Constance Marie), only to disappoint his foster mum when he got betrayed by best friend Humpty Alexander Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), a brilliant inventive and creative mind who had turned to a life of crime, staining the honor that Puss had gained through a heroic deed, banishing him forever as an outlaw and bandit.
The two major story arcs in this film enriched the narrative, one dealing with the past of Puss in Boots, while the other having him reluctantly team up with Humpty once again if only to get close to his new squeeze, the master thief Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), to take on the very grown up and nasty Bonnie and Clyde inspired Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thorton and Amy Sedaris), who are in possession of the fabled magical beans belonging to the other Jack (and the Beanstalk), where planting them at the correct spot would mean a path to the heavens to gain access to the goose that lays golden eggs, with repercussions of course that comes with a force of nature to be reckoned with.
What worked for Puss in Boots were the strengths of its story arcs, the major set action pieces, the voice cast really providing that level of flair to the many flamboyant characters in the film as well as dramatic, emotional depth to key characters, and who can forget the comedy. There are plenty of sight and verbal gags, and innuendos galore that hardly a moment goes by without something naturally hilarious happening, and does so quite subtly without screaming and forcing their way down your throat. Which I had found the later Shrek films guilty of doing just that.
Antonio Banderas provides the voice for Puss in Boots, and it's quite convenient that the character gets modelled after Zorro through a series of identifiable elements from costuming, behaviour as well as style, a character that Banderas himself have played twice in live action films. Puss continues to drawn upon established abilities especially that of its iconic hypnotic eyes, which somehow in a self-fulfilling fourth wall prophecy, will have any audience in stitches as well as held in captivating aww/awe. Zach Galifianakis voices the misunderstood character Humpty Dumpty to perfection, providing that balance of villainy and sympathy, while I suspect that the animators would have had a field day with Humpty especially with the plenty of movement gags that he got himself into, and playing upon none too subtle fat jokes on the character, resulting in the character stealing the scene most of the time. Hayek on the other hand did just enough providing her sultriness to the incredibly sexy feline that looked like, erm, Batman in costume.
Hitting the right notes consistently throughout the film, here's a pussy cat that's both a lover and a fighter and a film that can appeal to both young and the not too young at heart alike. The producers of Shrek and Kungfu Panda may have found itself another character that has enough legs to carry off yet another franchise on its own, but please don't let it merge or include characters from Shrek too soon, as this kitty deserves a rogues gallery and supportive allies of its own. Recommended!