Paramount PicturesNow Showing
A prequel of sorts to DreamWorks' Shrek franchise, where the the titular feline made his debut in that series' second film, Puss In Boots lands (on its feet) more toward the middle of the Shrek spectrum (Shrektrum?): behind one and two but ahead of the disappointing third and fourth instalments.
Certainly the animation in Puss In Boots (directed by Shrek 3's Chris Miller) is of a far more detailed nature than in those other films, and according to most, the 3D is some of the best yet deployed (though honestly, I couldn't tell). Story-wise, Puss In Boots relies less on pop culture references (although various fairy tales and nursery rhymes get a mention) in an attempt to tell the origins story of its hirsute hero.
Puss (Antonio Banderas, in fine vocal form) is already an outlaw when the film opens (post-coitus, I might add; try explaining that to the curious kiddies), the reason for which is explained in flashback when he happens upon an old friend, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifiniakis).
Turns out the pair were BFF's back in the day, when the two were residents of an orphanage. But Humpty's darker nature finally drove a wedge between them when a crime masterminded by the hardboiled egg went awry and Puss was forced to go on the run.
But now Humpty's back, and with his female feline sidekick, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), he wants to make amends to his long lost friend by including him in a heist to end all heists: to literally steal the goose who lays the golden eggs. All that is required is to first steal the magic beans from Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), two uncouth hillbillies from a Grimm Brothers' backwoods nightmare.
All of this unfolds amusingly enough, though without the wit that made the first two Shrek films so good. Banderas, whose Puss In Boots stole Shrek 2 away from the green ogre and, more impressively, Eddie Murphy's Donkey, makes the transition from sidekick to leading cat seem effortless. If you were a fan of his Shrek 2 antics (and a cat lover generally), you're bound to be engaged by the Spaniard here.
And Hayek is the perfect foil for the suave hero, swashing as well as he buckles. But Galifiniakis makes Humpty Dumpty neither evil or, surprisingly, funny enough. Not even the revelation of his true plan - man, is this egg scrambled - can provide much in the way of laughs, though youngsters may feel the urge to boo, or, rather, hiss cat-like.
Puss In Boots is engaging enough and will no doubt be enjoyed a lot more by said youngsters. In a lacklustre year for animated features, it's one of the better ones. Not the pick of the litter, mind, but adorable nonetheless.