Wed | May 31, 2023

‘Puss in Boots: The Last Wish’ - Compelling animation

Published:Friday | January 13, 2023 | 12:51 AMDamian Levy/Gleaner Writer
Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious Puss in ‘Puss In Boots’.
Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of the notorious Puss in ‘Puss In Boots’.

After several lifetimes worth of swashbuckling and death defiance, Puss in Boots seems to have run out of time. An encounter with an oversized bell takes his 8th life, the ferocious and feather-capped feline has to face the facts. He’s got one life left, and it’s not to be wasted at the wrong end of a blade. Of course, Puss lives in a land of fairy tales, so instead of heeding the reality of his predicament, he sets off to find a magic wishing star to get back his lives and continue on as everyone’s favourite fearless hero.

Puss in Boots: The Last Wish sets the stage for the living legend with a roller coaster of an opening number. Small as he may be, Puss has an ego the size of the giant he faces off against. Unlike many cocksure protagonists, he’s got the skills to back it up. While he clearly gets himself into trouble more often than not, watching a two-foot cat take on whatever life throws at him isn’t only thrilling, but also heartbreaking given the movie’s plot.

Mortality isn’t new ground for animation, but it’s always a pleasure when it’s handled well. Puss slowly, but surely accepts that the life he’s lived on his own terms is coming to an end on someone else’s. With one precious life to spare he’s resigned to a nursing home to keep himself out of harm’s way. Yet, his safety comes at the cost of his spirit. The adventurer from the film’s beginning is forced into a life of dullness and it’s nothing short of depressing.

The movie kicks up significantly once the plot gets going. Puss is joined once again by Salma Hayek’s Kitty Softpaws, and a stowaway junkyard dog named Perrito, played by Harvey Guillen, who’s too pathetic for words, yet infectiously optimistic.

With a set of protagonists, there must also be antagonists. Florence Pugh, Olivia Colman, Ray Winstone and Samson Kayo comprise the Goldilocks and the Three Bears crime family, coming across as the fairytale concoctions of a Guy Ritchie pitch meeting. Across the board the voice acting is well done and the humour is consistent, but where the film truly shines is with Wagner Moura’s Wolf. Sparingly used, yet incredibly impactful. From the design to the voice, the Wolf is one of the most compelling animated creations in the past few years.

For a movie about a cat coming to terms with his own mortality, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is very even in its tone. It doesn’t sidestep the seriousness of its content and gives a worthy and heartfelt treatment to its main character. At the same time it’s tremendously funny, with only a few jokes that didn’t get me laughing. On top of that the film is visually inventive with eye-popping animation that’s impressive, and makes for perhaps the best animated film of 2022.

Rating: Big Screen Watch

Damian Levy is a film critic and podcaster for Damian Michael Movies.