Puss In Boots * * *

Genre: Animation

Director: Chris Miller

Writers: Tom Wheeler, based on a story by Brian Lynch, Will Davies and Tom Wheeler

Voice Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris

Running Length: 90 minutes

Synopsis: Long before he even met Shrek, the notorious fighter, lover and outlaw Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) becomes a hero when he sets off on an adventure with the tough and street smart Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and the mastermind Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis) to save his town. This is the true story of The Cat, The Myth, The Legend…The Boots.

Review: After playing second fiddle to Shrek for three movies, the orange tabby finally gets his own movie, which seemed like a long time coming. The good news is that this Shrek spinoff manages to retain the trademark (slightly subversive) humour of the Shrek franchise, with more puns and visual gags than one can shake a sprig of catnip at, and also looks as good as any decent animated movie does nowadays. However, the story itself lacks imagination, and exists merely as a vehicle for the visuals and jokes to ride on. It remains a fairly entertaining movie but if only there was more once one scratches beneath the glossy veneer.

Cats are a cultural phenomenon on the internet, and rightly so – they can be really cute creatures to go gaga over, and yet have a regal nonchalance that is oddly alluring. Puss in Boots captures both aspects pretty well, especially since Antonio Banderas adds a sultry Spanish flair to the voice acting. However, despite the title of the movie, the true star of the film is Zach Galiafinakis and his Humpty Dumpty, a surprisingly nuanced character with complex, adult issues that almost seems out of place in what is essentially a movie catered for the younger audience. The film does not have the universality like many Pixar films, and these adult elements will not be readily identified by the kiddy set, but it’s always a pleasant surprise to find an animated film that does not talk down to its audience. However, that having been said, little is done with the deeper material, which results in a lack of resonance with the moral of the story.

The visuals as a whole are bright, colourful and detailed, and there are some truly memorable personifications of fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters (my favourite would have to be Jack and Jill, because they are the ones that confound expectations the most). Although it’s now a prerequisite for animated films to look good, Dreamworks probably does some of the best computer animated work after Pixar. Unlike many 3D films released nowadays, the third dimension in Puss in Boots isn’t used in a gimmicky manner, but does help to augment the film in terms of immersion. However, 3D does not lend itself well to higher-speed sequences, and there are some dance and action scenes which were a little overwhelming to watch.

The one biggest redeeming factor for Puss in Boots is simply that the film never takes itself too seriously. Once that mindset is in place, it’s easy to enjoy the movie for what it is – short, cinematic fluff that won’t fail to entertain even the most jaded cinemagoers. It even throws in a Lady Gaga song for good measure – and as the leading purveyor of pop culture these days, who can really argue with that?  

Rating: *** (out of four stars)

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