Puss in Boots
Rated PG/90 Minutes
You don’t have to be a cat person to enjoy Puss in Boots but it sure helps. In this CGI animated comedy, Antonio Banderas returns as the voice of Puss, the swashbuckling feline who was the best thing about the second Shrek movie. With no ogre or donkey in his way, Puss undergoes an adventure involving the search for magic beans, a trip to Jack and Jill’s castle at the end of a beanstalk and a run-in with a goose that, in the words of the film, “poops golden eggs.” Puss also teams up with a female cat who is not only his equal with a sword but voiced by Salma Hayek, cleverly re-teamed with Banderas after two Robert Rodriguez Mariachi thrillers.
Banderas is so perfect and hilarious as Puss, it’s unlikely that the character or the film could work without him. His career has highlights such as Evita and Pedro Almodovar dramas but he may be best loved in the U.S. for playing Puss; when he’s this funny playing a character this goofy, it’s no mystery why.
On the other hand, making Humpty Dumpty the third wheel sidekick was a mistake: voiced by Zach Galifianakis at his unfunniest, the creepy-looking character is out of place among a cast of mostly taking cats. Far better is Billy Bob Thornton, amusingly cast as a redneck Jack to Amy Sedaris’ Jill.
The story isn’t much and neither is the big climax. It lacks the style and intelligence of Rango but is better than every Shrek except the first one. What works are the jokes, particularly the ones that tease Banderas’ well established persona as a dashing ladies’ man. Also funny are the relentless cat jokes, which are more creative than you’d think.
A reoccurring gag concerning Puss’ distraction by reflections of light (the way cat owners love to torture their pets with pen lights) is a riot and so is the movie’s most quotable line regarding a hidden can of catnip. All of the action sequences are terrific, with or without the 3-D glasses but the best set piece is a fight that suddenly turns into something else entirely.
There’s also a wonderfully funny dance sequence that showcases right away why this movie is the cat’s pajamas and the other Shrek sequels are best forgotten: with the exception of a dusty Fight Club reference, there are no pop culture nods, no popular songs or up-to-the-minute, “hip” references.
This one gets it right by entertaining children and their parents by not insulting or talking down to them. Many recent animated comedies not made by Pixar work too hard to cater to every audience member, but this one mostly just wants you to laugh and succeeds nearly every time.
Things may get overly busy in the third act but parents will laugh along with their kids and no one will walk away wanting a Humpty Dumpty doll. Of the many moments on hand that are quite wonderful and evoke a fairy tale feel, I could watch cats cavorting merrily through clouds all day.
I have a friend who once wrote for Cat Fancy and adores cats; this movie is for her but also for anyone who can’t stand fur balls. I’m a cat person myself (there, I said it!) and find uppity, self-cleaning felines hilarious but honestly, anyone with a good sense of humor will dig this.
Whenever Puss is the center of attention (which is often), Banderas and his fuzzy avatar will have you wrapped around his paws like entangled yarn.