After the Shrek franchise drifted off to Far, Far Away, the baton was handled to loveable Puss in Boots, giving the fairy tale world new financial legs. Now, after over a decade since the previous film, the swashbuckling feline returns in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, his second and… final? adventure.
Directed by Joel Crawford, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish sees the iconic feline (Antonio Banderas) realize that he has used up all but one of his nine lives. Ordered to hang up his sword and boots out of concern for his last life, Puss finds himself faced with (literal) death as he is hunted by Grim Wolf (Wagner Moura). Hiding in a kitten retirement facility, he sulks and sinks into depression. When he stumbles across a map that leads to the famed ‘Wishing Star’, Puss is thrilled by the possibility of wishing for more lives. However, Puss is not the only one looking for the Star and he must team up with an old friend (Salma Hayek) in order to achieve his goal.
Admittedly, part of the appeal of the world of Far, Far Away has been the certain level of satire that fuels its storytelling. Featuring numerous pop-culture references (and even some more adult-targeting humor), the new film is energetic and enthusiastic in its style. What’s more, the quality of animation remains in keeping with the rest of the franchise, except for a few changes in its action sequences that give it new visual pop. Using a newer style akin to Dreamworks’ recent The Bad Guys, Last Wish has moments that give it an anime aesthetic. (This should come as no surprise as the style was initially inspired by Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.) In fact, the new look is so refreshing that one wishes they could have incorporated more of it. However, to do so would have likely broken its symmetry with the other films in the franchise.
No matter the context, it’s also always a joy to have Hayek and Banderas working together. Since developing a friendship on the set of 90s classic Desperado, the two have developed a solid rapport with one another. That chemistry remains on display in Last Wish as well, making it feel like a visit with old friends. However, the most endearing performances may come from its new characters. Whether it’s the vicious ‘Big’ Jack Horner (John Mulaney, the criminal masterminds Goldilocks and the three Bears (Florence Pugh, Olivia Coleman, Ray Winstone, Samson Kayo) , or even the adorable therapy dog, Perrito (Harvey Guillen), it’s the side characters that are most memorable as the credits roll.
At its heart, The Last Wish is a film that wants to deal with themes of leaving a legacy. With eight of his nine lives gone, Puss will do anything to see his life extended. However, in order to do so, the famed adventurer must wrestle with his greatest weakness: being willing to work with others. With his unparalleled courage and swordsmanship, Puss has always demanded the honour that he deserves. But, when that is stripped of him, he is left empty and afraid. Feeling lost and broken, Puss is forced to humble himself—and, even worse—entrust his life to others. In this way, he must face the arrogance and toxicity that infects his soul. Known for his masculine bravado, this recognition of weakness challenges Puss to learn how to be a new kind of hero – one who takes responsibility for his mistakes and seeks to empower others alongside him.
It remains to be seen whether or not this truly is Puss’ Last Wish. However, without giving any spoilers, there are strong hints that DreamWorks Animation is not yet done with this world. But, after the fun of this adventure, I’m willing to ride along once again if Puss in Boots does return in the future.
Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is available in theatres on Wednesday, December 21st, 2022.