The Plot: Plucky outlaw Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) has never faced fear… until now. Having burned his way through eight of his nine lives, he begins to realise just how vulnerable he is. He reluctantly decides to retire with other cats put out to pasture and grow a cat beard. However, adventure comes calling again. The possibility of restoring his nine lives materialises when the legend of the wishing star proves to be true when he encounters Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and her bear family. The star can grant only one wish, so Puss In Boots sets out with old flame Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek Pinault) and new friend Perrito (Harvey Guillen) to save himself from certain doom. That’s not helped by the spectral appearance of bounty hunter Wolf (Wagner Moura), who has a score to settle with the famous cat…
The Verdict: Here’s a genuine surprise from the dream factory of Hollywood and Dreamworks Animation, when originality and surprises are often in short supply. A sequel to a 12-year-old spin-off of the Shrek franchise that nobody really expected. And yet here it is… Puss In Boots: The Last Wish which catches up with the fairytale, Zorro-like cat adventurer, as sharp with his wit as he is with his rapier as he confidently bounces about angering the local governor while gaining the adoration of the people. Being a cat, having nine lives has meant that he has evaded responsibility for his reckless actions as well as leaving former flame Kitty Softpaws in the lurch. But with just one life left, he’ll have to be more careful. Especially now that he has a multitude of villains on his long tail, as he searches for a solution to his problem before it’s all game over for him for good.
The original spin-off film was a fun frolic that kept the character tongue in cheek, so by any expectations a sequel would just be a cash-grab moment to remind us of just how much fun those Shrek films were (well, the first two anyway). Not so. The Last Wish is better than that and quite comfortably surpasses its predecessor with its approach to intricate storytelling, innovative animation and inventive use of characterisation. The story by Tom Wheeler and screenplay by Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow takes the title character down several pegs as he faces his mortality for the first time, with the realisation that one life, one that is honourable and well-lived, might be enough. It’s a surprisingly deep and introspective concept for a studio-made animation to hang its plot on, but it works a treat here without being overly complex for children or too simplified for adults. There’s plenty here for adults to enjoy, with the use of a familiar classic song with a Spanish twist being used in a retirement home to great effect.
Co-directors Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado add further flavour to this tasty paella by mixing in no less than three different sets of villains for our hero and his friends to deal with. Triple trouble but thankfully without the disappointing, more-is-actually-less approach of Spider-Man 3. The villains are all well-designed and voiced too, with Wagner Moura a stand-out as the mysterious Wolf. There’s even an ‘ethical bug’ with an aw-shucks James Stewart-style voice who steals every scene he’s in. Most of all though, it’s Banderas who really shines in the voice work. Sounding a bit older, gruffer and more world-weary but no less courageous, he’s delightful throughout and powers the frenetic events along purr-fectly. This is backed up with dazzling animation and visually arresting environment design, with action sequences using a similar technique to that in the Spider-Verse films to heighten their visual impact. Puss In Boots: The Last Wish purrs along nicely, a triumphant return for the title character who has aged like fine wine in a sequel that more than justifies its existence.
Rating: 4 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
In short: Purrs along nicely
Directed by Joel Crawford, Januel Mercado.
Starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek Pinault, Florence Pugh, Harvey Guillen, Olivia Colman, Wagner Moura.