by Ryan Hill
In 2004, “Shrek 2” opened to massive critical and commercial success as it steam-rolled its way to becoming the highest-grossing animated film of all time in the United States. One of the major reasons for the sequel’s runaway success was the introduction of Puss in Boots, who stole the film thanks to an inspired vocal performance by Antonio Banderas.
Ever since Puss burst onto the scene, there’s been talk of a spin-off movie starring the outlaw pussycat. Seven years later, that film is a reality with the aptly titled “Puss in Boots.” Banderas returns as the titular cat, and while there are no “Shrek” cameos, there are plenty of other nursery rhyme characters to be found, including Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis), Jack and Jill (Billy Bob Thornton and Amy Sedaris), and a new character, Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek).
After beginning the film with some nifty 3-D action, Puss is recruited by his old friend Humpty along with Kitty to try to steal some magic beans from Jack and Jill so they can get their hands on the golden eggs laid by the golden goose. Apart from some momentum-killing exposition about Puss and Humpty’s checkered past, that’s as far as the paper-thin plot goes.
With talents like “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro working behind the scenes on “Puss,” it’s disappointing that the film isn’t packed with more adult jokes, or even references to spaghetti westerns, which is what the film acts like at times. With a visionary like del Toro involved, even in an executive producer capacity, I would expect of “Puss” than another quickly-forgotten run-of-the-mill animated film.
Banderas is always great as Puss, but instead of capitalizing on a talented cast, “Puss in Boots” tries to make a few cat jokes, which were done better in “Shrek 2,” and some egg jokes about Humpty.
The film also tries to take on some weighty themes, which drags down what should be a lightweight affair about two cats and an egg trying to steal magic beans so they can get their hands on some golden eggs. Even the film’s climactic monster, which in a silly film would probably be comedic, is just plain ridiculous here.
With the “Shrek” franchise running on fumes after the disappointing third and fourth entries, the hope was probably that “Puss” could pick up the torch and continue DreamWorks Animation’s run of profitable fractured fairy tales. “
“Puss in Boots” will definitely be popular with children, but parents likely will be disappointed. The film, while it does have some nice moments, is just too shallow and unfunny to be much more than a companion piece to the “Shrek” franchise, rather than the beginning of a new and exciting animated series.
Grade: 2 1/2 out of 4
MPAA Rating: PG for some adventure action and mild rude humor
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis
Studio: DreamWorks Animation