Welcome, World Travelers! Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is Just Right!
by James Coulter
To be perfectly honest, 2022 was not the best year for Disney. I found most of their movies “meh” at best and “grossly mediocre” at worst. If anything, the best films I watched last year weren’t made by the Mouse House. I even reviewed two of them: RRR and Weird: The Al Yankovic Story. In fact, most of last year’s best animated features were non-Disney films like DreamWork’s The Bad Guys and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio on Netflix. And that fact remains especially true with the film for this review: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.
While I loved the first two Shrek movies, the third film was when the franchise lost my interest. I haven’t even seen the fourth Shrek movie or the Puss in Boots spin-off. So, originally, I wasn’t interested in seeing this movie at all. However, after watching the trailer and seeing overwhelmingly positive reviews, I decided to give this movie a watch. I can concur this movie is deserving of its high praise.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish follows the titular protagonist, a fearless feline who is more than willing to leap into danger, fight the fiercest foes, and pull off death-defying feats—and, being a cat with nine lives certainly helps! Unfortunately, after one too many near-death experiences, Puss has whittled down his nine lives to one. His only hope is a wishing star that will grant anyone’s wish. With friends old and new joining him, Puss sallies forth to reach this star, but he is quickly chased by other fairy tale characters wanting the star for themselves. Also pursuing him is Death itself, who wants to claim Puss’s last life. Will Puss be able to make it in time? Or is he truly down to his ninth and final life?
The most obvious positive are the visuals. Since Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse, other animated movies have utilized this refreshingly stylized art style that seamlessly blends elements from 3D and 2D animation. The art style works exceptionally well for Puss in Boots, as the paintbrush aesthetic accentuatesthe fairy tale fantasy setting, making it feel like a storybook come to life.
This fact is best exemplified by the Dark Forest, the location of the wishing star. Puss and the others use a magical map to navigate this enchanted forest, which changes depending on whoever holds it. So, the setting often shifts from sunny meadows of colorful flowers to dark thorny wastelands filledwith grave perils.
The animation shines the most with the action sequences. Similar to Spider-Verse, Puss has some very dynamic fight scenes with high-octane action heightened by creative camera angles and ingenious frame-rates drops.
The story is simple enough. The main character wants to hunt down a grand prize, and other characters chase after him and fight him to get to it before he can. It’s a very madcap plot reminiscent of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World that leads to excellent chase sequences, fight scenes, and plenty of wacky shenanigans. Each character has their own motive for finding the wishing star, and during the journey, each of them has their backstories explored and their characters fleshed out.
One group of villains is Goldilocks and the Three Bear crime family, who have some excellent lines and moments of them bickering with one another in blooming cockney accents. No spoilers, but Goldilocks is revealed to have an interesting backstory that hints at what her wish (and inevitable resolution) will be—and anyone familiar with her fairy tale might be able to figure it out for themselves.
The other group of villains is Little Jack Horner (or rather, Big Jack Horner) and his baker’s dozen. He’s a crime boss with the desire to collect all things enchanted including the magic of the wishing star itself. He carries a mad assortment of magical fairy tale items from poisoned apples that can be tossed like grenades and even unicorn horns that explode their targets into confetti. He even has some very hilarious exchanges with this movie’s version of Jiminy Cricket, who, as his new conscience, tries (and fails) to reform the demented crime boss.
Perhaps the most intriguing villain is Death, a sickle-wielding,red-eyed wolf who serves as Puss’ main rival. This version of death personified is one of the few characters who managed to nearly defeat Puss, who boasts of having never been cut by a blade—and the one who, for the first time in his nine lives, terrifies Puss to near death (pun intended). As many other reviewers have mentioned, this is one of the best villains in an animated film by far, and every scene with him proves dark and foreboding.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is perhaps the darkest, most mature animated movie by DreamWorks. The film tackles many mature subjects like death, mortality, abandonment, anxiety, and found family. Also, as with other Shrek films, it has a very edgy bite with humor that leans close towards adult. While there is no profanity (unless you consider “crap” a bad word), there are many hilarious moments where curse words are cleverly censored.
Overall, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a refreshing return to form for the Shrek franchise, with plenty of light-hearted comedy balanced out by exciting action scenes and dark moments. If this movie is any indicator of its creative direction, then Shrek 5 may very well be worth the wait and watch when it is released.