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Film: "Puss in Boots: The Last Wish"
When Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) realizes he has burned through eight of his nine lives, he sets off on a journey to wish upon a magical, fallen star and try to get them back.
The last few months of 2022 gave us a widespread slate of exciting and interesting films to choose from. From December blockbusters like Avatar: The Way of Water to heavier, more mature dramas like Devotion or The Fabelmans, the film rollout that we received had something for everyone. Honestly, I am still trying to catch up on everything I missed. However, there stands one particular movie in this lineup that I did not think too much of initially. I had no plans to see this film in theaters. Truth be told, I did not expect it to be very good. I did, however, go to see it when a friend invited me over Christmas break. When I walked out of the theater that night, I was in absolute shock at how this movie had made me eat every single one of my words.
I am, of course, talking about Puss In Boots: The Last Wish, the sequel to the 2011 film Puss In Boots. When Puss In Boots (Antonio Banderas) realizes he has burned through eight of his nine lives, he sets off on a journey to wish upon a magical, fallen star and try to get them back. His quest brings him through uncharted territories and puts him in the path of new and old friends and foes. He is forced to work with the unlikeliest of allies and face his greatest fears as he seeks to accomplish his mission.
A large part of what I think made Puss In Boots: The Last Wish so good lies in how well the film generates a universal sense of appeal. Yes, it's a PG-rated, animated movie that is marketed toward children, but I do believe that there is something here for everyone. The film knows exactly what it is. It never takes itself too seriously. It features an excellently-sequenced musical opening that perfectly sets the lighthearted tone, and the narrative is entertaining and engrossing for the viewer as it unfolds. The animation is perhaps the best it has ever been for a Shrek film, and I love how it finds a way to incorporate a more modern style.
Going further than that, I found myself very surprised at some of the more mature thematic material found in this movie. Underneath the film’s entertaining exterior lies a deeper message centered around learning to embrace the life you have been given, and I was blown away by just how aware and introspective the movie was in how it chose to explore this. As he has now lost eight of his “nine lives,” Puss is forced to face his own newfound mortality. The prospect initially terrifies him to the point of panic. As the movie progresses, however, we see Puss’ mindset transition from one of fear to one of acceptance and appreciation for life. He breaks down the walls he has built and opens himself up to other people, and it’s a progression that I thought was absolutely beautiful to watch unfold.
Every character we meet feels remarkably unique and well rounded. Antonio Banderas has always been a perfect fit for the character of Puss In Boots, and he clearly has a lot of fun voicing the character in this film. Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) is the perfect counterpart to Puss, bringing her own sense of cool confidence to the table. The two are joined by a dog named Perrito (Harvey Guillen) who proves himself to be one of the film’s biggest emotional anchors in some very touching ways. Both of the movie’s primary antagonists are excellent as well. Big Jack Horner (John Mulaney) is a great example of a cartoonish antagonist done right, and I love the way the movie uses him as a clever subversion of the sympathetic villain trope that feels all too common these days. Perhaps the biggest standout was the character introduced as the Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura). This character is one of the coolest and most imposing animated villains I have ever seen. He’s extremely menacing in his presentation, announcing his presence with a slow, eerie whistle and staring down his opponents with unblinking red eyes. You get the feeling throughout the movie that he’s an unstoppable entity that poses a real threat to our heroes.
I really cannot stress enough just how shockingly good Puss In Boots: The Last Wish is. It’s relentlessly charming and shockingly thought-provoking, and it left me with a surprising lot to ponder after I watched it. If you haven’t seen this yet, I’d absolutely recommend checking it out. This is a movie in which almost anyone can find something to appreciate.
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