You have to wonder whether the fact the Shrek franchise is Dreamworks Animation’s goose that laid the golden egg was going through the minds of the powers that be when they were coming up with the story for Puss In Boots. While we were promised Shrek Forever After would be the last movie about the green ogre, it’s little surprise the studio wanted to carry on with a spin-off, and Puss In Boots is certainly a good character to do it with, allowing for a film that feels familiar but is different enough not to seem as if it’s merely rehashing the Shrek movies.
Set before Puss met his ogrish pals, the film sees the well-shod feline as an outlaw who discovers the dastardly Jack & Jill have the magic beans he’s been looking for most of his life. When he tries to steal them, he’s interrupted by another cat who on the outside of the law, Kitty Softpaws, who turns out to be allied to Puss’ old pal Humpty Dumpty. However Puss and Humpty have long been estranged, as despite growing up together in an orphanage, Puss blames Humpty for making him an outlaw when he got him involved in a robbery he knew nothing about.
While Puss isn’t sure about getting mixed up with Humpty again, eventually he agrees to put the past behind him and along with Kitty, the trio set off to finally fulfil the quest he and Humpty dreamed of in their youth – to get the magic beans, climb the beanstalk and find the goose that lays the golden egg. However everything may not be as it appears.
If the overwhelming colours of Shrek were blue and green, Puss In Boots replaces that with orange and red, taking us into a very Spanish world of dusty aridity and bleached-walled towns. As you’d expect, it looks very good, even if there are some moments when action scenes get rather too hectic and you get the impression they spent so much time trying to make sure things seemed good value for money in 3D, that they didn’t realise they seem rather excessive without that extra dimension. However that’s not too much of an issue and the target audience – kids – certainly won’t mind.
The main sensation is one of energy, fun and drive, with the plot moving at an incredibly fast clip, with things only slowing down for an extended jaunt into Puss’ childhood and his love-hate relationship with the duplicitous Humpty.
New character Kitty, as voiced by Salma Hayek, is a very good addition, as she has great spark with Antonio Banderas’ Puss. It would be interesting to know if they did all their voice work separately or if some of it was done together, as they certainly seem to have chemistry. Humpty meanwhile is a more problematic new character, largely because he’s actually a pretty complex fellow, and the movie isn’t entirely sure how to present him so that revelations towards the end don’t seem to come out of nowhere or cheat the audience.
Perhaps most important for any adult viewers is that retained from the Shrek movies are jokes that will fly over the kids heads but land with aplomb for grown-ups. I particularly enjoyed Puss attempting to convince someone he needs a bottle of catnip for his glaucoma.
If the film has one flaw it’s that unlike the Shrek movies, once the movie is over it won’t stay in the memory all that long. Puss In Boots is fun while you’re watching it, but it’s not quite funny, moving or exciting enough to make it all that memorable. To be honest though, it’s not an issue while the movie’s playing, as with a fast pace and plenty of humour, you’ll have a good time, even if a few days later you can’t remember much about it.
The DVD includes a decent featurette about the voices behind the movie, which is mainly worth watching for Antonio Banderas having a blast in the recording studio, as well as a few deleted scenes that illustrate some of the different incarnations of the film’s third act.
Overall Verdict: There’s plenty of swashbuckling furry fun to be had in Puss In Boots, even if it lacks the verve and emotionally stirring core that made Shrek so memorable.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac