• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

Review: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish

ByPatricia Kohring

Feb 25, 2023

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s the end of February, so for a fourth-year student like myself, it’s also, unfortunately, officially crunch time. Even so, everyone needs a break once in a while, little social (or anti-social) moments for rejuvenation if you like. And if you lack creativity and/or want an easy fix, then the cinema can be perfectly fulfilling in a fun, escapist sort of way. As for a lot of people my age, the ‘Shrek universe’ remains close at heart, not only for nostalgic reasons but also because of the humour that one discovers upon rewatching the iconic films. So, of course, after getting over the fact that this is now how I prefer to spend my evenings as a twenty-two-year-old, I just could not avoid giving Puss in Boots: The Last Wish an hour and a half of my time.

Now, I didn’t watch a YouTube recap on the previous films as I usually do in preparation for sequels (would that have been considered going a bit too far for a film about an anthropomorphic cat?), but from the very start – no exaggeration – I could tell that this film was going to outdo them all. I mean the Puss in Boots films, of course – Shrek 2 is of an entirely different calibre. Still, the narrative of The Last Wish was fantastic, not only for a children’s film. Puss, who discovers that he is on his final cat life (his ninth!), essentially undergoes an existential crisis. Death anxiety invades his mind, and his fear quickly compounds to sheer terror with the stalking presence of his personal bounty hunter; death personified and presented as a surprisingly creepy assassin-wolf (played by Brazilian actor Wagner Moura, who has only played in thrillers or crime shows/films- unsurprising once you’ve heard his voice).

As the plot unfolds, we realise that in order for Puss to reach some kind of reconciliation with his mortality, he must partake in a journey that will stimulate revelation. Essentially, the magical wishing star that Puss so desires will not end his torments or offer him solace in the long run. More lives would be a temporary fix for our hero; what he really needs – something he discovers through his newfound friend/’ therapy dog’ Perrito, Kitty soft-paws, and their wholesome collaboration as ‘Team Friendhip’ – involves learning to be grateful for and happy in the remaining life that he does have. As the chihuahua wisely reflects, “I’ve only ever had one life. But sharing it with you and Kitty has made it pretty special. Maybe one life is enough.” What a lovely message; cherish the love and life you’ve already been given.

Besides these very real and in-tune moments, the film also delivered on the comic front. The cross-referencing of fairytales that we’ve come to expect from Shrek-affiliated films was cleverly embedded throughout. Goldilocks and the Three Bears were key characters, hysterically reimagined as a family gangster group with thick Cockney accents (not Northern, as I was embarrassingly corrected). The bickering between them was a source of entertainment itself, but the references to the famous lines “too hot”, “too cold”, “just right” really were the icing on the cake; that is, until the repetition of these began to verge on the silly, if not unimaginative. In fact, maybe the lack of nuanced material for the Three Bears family is my only adamant critique of the film on the whole.

On the other hand, the pseudo-villain (the real villain was obviously Death himself) was pretty damn hilarious in his complete embodiment of the ‘bad guy’ cliché. Big Jack Horner tries to make up for a lack of fame during his childhood as a privileged yet irrelevant fairytale figure by using the wish-star to become master of all magic and ruler of the world. For some time, he has a morally conscious cricket perched on his shoulder, but his ‘Ethical Bug’ retires early after a series of comments such as “Can’t bake a pie without losing a dozen men” (play on ‘the baker’s dozen’) that prove Jack’s selfishness incurable. Jack is a great addition because he is literally a parody of every villain ever.

Lastly (I promise), DreamWorks surprises us with an unprecedented mix of animation styles. Along with the smooth ‘realist’ animations we have encountered in previous films by the animation studio, the visuals for The Last Wish took a creative turn in adding what the director calls a “painterly aesthetic”. This involves a more intentionally ‘rough’ style, evoking a sense of the hand-drawn. To me, two worlds collided here; at once, I was both in a live comic book and the classic animated children’s film of the 21st century.

Finally, then, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is more than deserving of these four stars- and that’s me being critical. The film has a great plot, is in tune with what we want from Shrek-related films and is funny enough for laughter to frequently fill the theatre. So, if you haven’t already, take yourself out to the cinema, sit back, relax, and enjoy (you will) the new Puss in Boots! It’s as close to purrfect as an animated cat film will get.

Image Credit: Pus med støvler” by NTB Scanpix is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.