Puss in Boots: The Last Wish review

DreamWorks Animation’s latest blockbuster, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish has landed in theatres for the school holidays. Our resident film buffs Tom Parry and Stefan Bradley went to check it out.

TP: There’s a lot to unpack here. This is a sequel to the first Puss in Boots, which itself is a spin-off of the Shrek franchise – the title character having been introduced in Shrek 2. Critics have been raving about it for weeks, with some even hailing it the best animated movie of the year, and you know what? I’m inclined to agree with them. What are your immediate thoughts, Stefan?

SB: First of all, I’d say yes: believe the hype. This was a breath of fresh air for the Shrek franchise, and better than the first Puss in Boots, which is a good movie, but not necessarily one I want to revisit. Probably the biggest compliment I can provide is this: we only saw The Last Wish a few minutes before we had this conversation, and already I want to watch it again. It was very creative – lots of great ideas, great characters, great voice-acting, a new animation style and a good soundtrack. I feel like it had everything.

TP: It really did. I’m glad you touched on the voice acting, because all of the performers do a fantastic job bringing their characters to life. We’ve got thespians returning to their roles, as well as Oscar winners, little-known personalities, and somebody who sounds like James Corden but isn’t actually James Corden.

SB: With regard to the plot, it sees our hero, Puss (Antonio Banderas) learn that he has lost eight of his nine lives, and goes on a quest to locate a fabled wishing star to grant them back. Along the way, he encounters a big, bad wolf (voiced by Wagner Moura), a nameless stray dog (Harvey Guillén), Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears, Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney), and his old flame, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).

TP: Do you believe the story improves upon the first movie?

SB: Yes, I do. The premise is rather cheesy, but having all these characters with differing motivations makes the story really interesting. I appreciate how they’ve taken a supporting character from Shrek 2 and given him layers – he’s no longer just a sword-fighting kitty who looks at enemies with cute eyes; he’s now a nuanced, relatable personality. I thought the story was compelling and it went in a lot of different directions thanks to the inclusion of the various fairy-tale characters.

TP: That’s right. I will say, as somebody who very much enjoys the first movie, the different animation styles did throw me a bit. The Last Wish utilises the same animation software as The Bad Guys, which was DreamWorks Animation’s other 2022 release, and a technique it calls DigiMatte which allows its films to look like a drawing or oil painting.

SB: Yes, but it’s still reminiscent of the Shrek style, and it wasn’t just utilised for the sake of it – DigiMatte allows for certain objects to pop-out or cool effects in some sequences.

TP: But they also utilise it to toy with different art styles, and occasionally drop the frame-rate to showcase those styles, much like Sony Pictures Animation’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Part of me appreciates that, but another part says that it’s just another example of DreamWorks stealing ideas from other studios.

Image: Universal Pictures/DreamWorks Animation

 

SB: But at least they’re trying something new – do we really want another mid-2000s era DreamWorks movie, or do we want something that moves with the times? I’m glad they’re not continuing with that realistic style of animation we’re accustomed to seeing – it made The Last Wish more fun and engaging. After all, it’s an animated film, and you want the visuals to be at least a little bit out-there.

TP: That’s a fair point. I must add, I was really surprised by how nuanced and grown-up the morals of the film were, especially for what is, ostensibly, a family movie. A lot of them will go over children’s heads, but for adults, the narrative is a smart, engaging discussion about mortality.

SB: Agreed – Puss fears death, and he feels vulnerable in that state after feeling invincible for so long. I thought they handled the subject in a quite mature and interesting way. And they did so without skimping on the action!

TP: There’s not just a lot of action, there’s a lot of every genre. There’s elements of comedy, fantasy, romance, westerns – it really has everything. In terms of criticisms, the principal antagonist, Jack Horner was far too cartoonish for my liking, but I appreciate how they heavily leaned into it, to the point where he himself becomes the joke.

SB: The first two Shrek movies in particular were so creative and inspired, and The Last Wish stands tall with them, possibly even higher. You can watch all those movies and the first Puss in Boots on Netflix, but I wouldn’t say they’re required viewings, as The Last Wish works well on its own. It’s just a great family movie.

TP: Absolutely. I’m so glad we can end the cinematic year in agreement with each other!

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is rated PG for mild themes, animated violence, coarse language and scary scenes, and is currently showing at Sale Cinema.