Puss in Boots: The Last Wish Review:
Shrek is a film, cultural phenomenon, and bizarre internet meme that has pervaded every crevice of the modern popular zeitgeist. From bumbling toddler to cynical adult, the animation wonder has nothing but adoration (both earned and misguided) hurled at it. It not only challenged the notion of what CGI animation could accomplish but demolished the mold of what children’s movies could be— cleverly subverting classic fairy tales with bracing irreverence. The farting, utterly vulgar ogre revived the floundering DreamWorks Animation, catapulting them from the pits of oblivion overnight.
Shrek 2 introduced the alluring, Zorro-Esque, and Antonio Banderas-voiced Puss in Boots. The swashbuckling, D’artagnan hat-sporting ginger tabby cat became an instant fan favourite, garnering his own spin-off movie in 2011 soon after the main Shrek quadrilogy concluded with a thud.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is a long-awaited sequel that could have easily coasted off its recognizable property to a handsome box office return. Instead, DreamWorks, and director Joel Crawford, refused to play it safe, crafting one of the most cathartic animated experiences in recent memory. Brimming with inventive ideas and kaleidoscopic visuals, The Last Wish, not only injects vigour into the long-dormant Shrek franchise but is one of the greatest films of the year, period.
The fearless Puss in Boots (Banderas, as silky-smooth as ever) is synonymous with laughing in the face of certain death, spending the better part of his nine lives performing death-defying feats— all of which are gloriously showcased in the raucously gorgeous opening. Not concerned with being on his last life, he comes paw-to-paw with a foreboding wolf (Wagner Moura), a cloaked bounty hunter with two short scythes who has meticulously waited for Puss to be on his final life. Bested for the first time, Puss flees towards retirement, settling into a cat lady’s home and languishing in the mundanity of domestication (rendered as a great homage to Apocalypse Now).
He comes across the existence of a legendary wishing star that fell to earth eons ago when he’s accosted by the cockney Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and her family of bears (Ray Winstone, Oliva Colman, and Samson Kayo). Alongside the show-stealing, impossibly naïve dog, Perrito (Harvey Guillén), and his old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek), the three embark on a journey to find the star and reclaim a fresh batch of new lives. All the while, vying against the Wolf, Goldilocks’ bears, and the villainous, sorcery-obsessed Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney).
The plot has all the makings of a familiar adventure, and in its framework, it absolutely is. However, its execution separates it from its maudlin contemporaries. Utterly dripping with style, this swashbuckling adventure enters the domain of the awe-inspiring with pure visual potency, painting its great lesson on appreciating the life we have now with an ingenious, emotionally invigorating brushstroke.
The dazzling animation excels on all fronts, creating depth with both its astonishing world and multifaceted character design. From the nuanced, utterly frightening Wolf to the grizzled, huntress-like goldilocks to Puss’s visage of inner turmoil, each character is imbued with noticeable layers. The Last Wish not only continues the franchise’s jocular amalgamation of popular fairy-tale characters but underpins it with a surprising level of maturity, fearlessly provoking its young audience into heavy conversations surrounding death, fractured families, and shattered trust.
The sheer assortment of fantastical personalities—all varied, eclectic, and wholly interesting—are never wasted, each satisfyingly fulfilling their own arcs in service of a greater one. Goldilocks’s reason for pursuing the wishing star is markedly unexpected, yet fits the narrative with grace, while the irredeemable and feckless Big Jack Horner transforms his famed nursery rhyme into a stark motivator. The Wolf is a vividly realized personification of death, whose piercing red eyes and ominous whistle unearth Puss’s deep-seated fear of the inevitable every time he appears from the shadows. Even characters like the scrupulous Talking Cricket make an indelible imprint, despite their brief time on screen.
The ever-shifting, transmogrifying world serves as a wonderful playground for the dynamic, propulsive action set-pieces. Straying from the more realistic style of its predecessors, the storybook-like animation revels in unbridled creativity. Not satisfied with just one domain, the studio brings forth a bevy of environments that morph from perspective to perspective, colliding onto themselves and transforming into something else entirely, and even more staggering. The result is equally treacherous and resplendent, wringing everything possible out of its familiar concept.
The Last Wish is a rare animation marvel that astonishes with its visual prowess while deftly delivering mature lessons to a young audience. From the complex character design to its transportive worldbuilding, the film’s stellar multitudinous quality coalesces in a wholly cathartic finale. Though the ultimate route is predictable, the numerous shifting pathways and transformations are what make it truly memorable. Come for the cute cat, stay for the deceptively deep character.
– Prabhjot Bains