What a cash grab of a sequel! Riding on the mere nostalgia factor by slapping the iconic Puss in Boots and his on-and-off companion, Kitty Softpaws, rehashing the same storyline from the first movie, throw in some pop-culture references and call it a day.
Relax! The Puss in Boots sequel is fine and it’s worth the wait after — not counting the six-season The Adventure of Puss in Boots animated series — 11 years (!) since the first movie. But I did initially worry about Puss in Boots for taking so long to come up with a sequel (blame it on the DreamWorks Animations’ major restructuring at the time of the delay) that my interest has already waned by the time I saw the first trailer around nine months ago. Fortunately, the sequel turns out to be better than I expected.
The first thing I noticed about Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is the significant change in its animation style. It was more of a sketchy comic book-like blend of 2D and 3D visual aesthetics that evokes the distinctive look and feel of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018). It also gives the sequel an overall vibrant-fairy-tale-comes-to-life kind of vibes, making it such a visual feast right from the get-go. The extended opening sequence showcases co-directors Joel Crawford and Januel Mercado’s technical prowess in staging an exuberant mix of comedy and swashbuckling action as we see the return of Puss in Boots (voiced by Antonio Banderas) save a town from the wrath of a stone giant. The intricately-choreographed action sequences, coupled with the acrobatic virtual camera movements are dazzling to look at while Banderas’ charming-as-ever Puss in Boots certainly has the sequel getting off to a promising start.
Then, he got killed by a falling bell and finds himself waking up in a town doctor’s (Anthony Mendez) room. Puss in Boots figured it was no big deal he manages to escape from death once again, only to be reminded by the doctor that he has already used up his eight lives with one more left to go. Despite the doctor’s suggestion for him to retire, Puss in Boots refused to do so until he confronts a vicious Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura) and lost the battle.
Well, long story short, he decided to bury his past and live like a normal cat under the care of a cat lady (Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s Mama Luna). But it’s not for long when Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the three bears (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman and Samson Kayo) are looking for him. Apparently, it has something to do with searching for the Wishing Star capable of fulfilling any wish.
Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) is back too and it’s a love-hate relationship again between her and Puss in Boots after their unexpected reunion, and this time, they have a talkative dog Perro (Harvey Guillén) joining them for the quest as well.
Okay, some of the jokes are a hit-and-miss affair while the introduction of the oversized “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney) and his Baker’s Dozen gang members (they are literally bakers using baking tools as makeshift weapons) are nothing more than your standard-issue antagonists.
Still, these shortcomings are forgivable, especially given the sequel’s above-average screenplay — credited to Paul Fisher and Tommy Swerdlow — for incorporating surprisingly mature themes of mortality and trust issues. The former is what makes Puss in Boots: The Last Wish a cut above the rest of your usual garden-variety DreamWorks Animation features. We see Puss in Boots who constantly laughs it off about death, only to finally learn the cold bitter truth about facing one himself. This is especially true after he deals with the Big Bad Wolf. The weighty doom-and-gloom subject matter may scare the kids but at the same time, it helps strike a balance for the sequel to appeal to both adults and kids.
The sequel also benefits from the excellent voice cast. Banderas brings a mix of swagger and gravitas to his already-iconic role as Puss in Boots. In fact, this is his best voice-acting performance to date and he pairs well with Salma Hayek’s Kitty Softpaws, who both share a terrific, lived-in chemistry.
Let’s not forget about Harvey Guillén, who voiced the newcomer dog role as Perro. At first, I figured he was going to be one of those annoying comic-relief sidekicks but beyond his eccentric personality, Perro happens to serve as a moral compass between the bickering Puss in Boots and Kitty Softpaws. Wagner Moura’s perfectly sinister-voiced Big Bad Wolf, complete with glowing red eyes as well as his eerily whistling sound is easily among the best and most fearsome antagonists to date coming from the DreamWorks Animation banner. Finally, there’s Florence Pugh, who made quite a lasting impression as the relentless Goldilocks.