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Puss In Boots: The Last Wish ★★★★



Directors: Joel Crawford, Januel Mercado

Cast: Antonio Banderas, Olivia Colman, Salma Hayek, Wagner Moura, Ray Winstone, Florence Pugh, Harvey Guillén, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Samson Kayo, John Mulaney, Anthony Mendez

Release: 3rd February 2023

Over a decade after the first instalment was released, audiences can finally venture back to the fairytale Shrek universe in the latest animated adventure from DreamWorks Animation. It’s incredible to think Antonio Banderas made his debut as the swashbuckling, fearless feline in Shrek 2 almost twenty years ago, but despite the long wait, this dazzlingly animated and heartfelt journey proves that some sequels are actually better than their predecessors.

Directed by Joel Crawford, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish follows the titular legendary hero as he embarks on a quest with Kitty Softpaws (Salma Hayek) and the incredibly charming abandoned dog Perrito (Harvey Guillén) to the Black Forest, in the hopes of retrieving the mystical Wishing Star and restoring his eight lost lives. However, Goldilocks (Florence Pugh) and the Three Bears (Ray Winstone, Olivia Colman and Samson Kayo), “Big” Jack Horner (John Mulaney) and his Baker’s Dozen mercenaries and bounty hunter, Big Bad Wolf (Wagner Moura) are all hot on the trio’s heels.

Despite certain preconceived expectations, the sequel is a surprisingly poignant and heartwarming fairytale adventure (with neo-Western elements) which harks back to the early Shrek instalments and the How to Train Your Dragon franchise. Writers Tommy Swerdlow and Tom Wheeler deftly balance the fun, fast-paced quest narrative – which will surely delight younger viewers – with a poignant and profound meditation on themes such as mortality, legacy, the power of found family and friendships and appreciating the beauty and value of life. Dreamworks has taken a big swing with the emotional maturity of Puss’ arc and the thematic depths explored, but it certainly more than pays off.

It’s also genuinely funny, with Puss’ hilarious one-liners, a handful of nostalgic nods to the Shrek franchise and plenty of enjoyable remythologizing of fairytale and nursery rhyme characters and related gags. The only drawback is that the central quest is hampered somewhat by the sheer weight of juggling so many characters, but that’s easy to accept, given that it’s such an enjoyable film.

Antonio Banderas continues to delight with his dynamic vocal performance as the titular tabby, shining best in the wonderfully endearing family dynamic with Hayek’s Kitty Softpaws and Guillén’s Perrito. He is also finally given the room to further explore the fearless feline, adding much more depth and a surprising vulnerability to the role, which has evolved immensely from the comedic Shrek sidekick full of bravado. Furthermore, antagonists Goldilocks and the Three Bears are wonderfully reimagined as a roguish band of outlaws, with Pugh’s Goldi mirroring a similarly emotional arc as Puss. Their dynamic is equally as compelling, with Colman’s seemingly dim but warmhearted mama bear (with a brilliantly hilarious love for hats) often stealing the show.

Mulaney’s relatively shallow Jack Horner is the overall weak link, but thankfully Moura’s Wolf more than makes up for that in the villain department, as the sickle-swinging bounty hunter adds a real level of terrifying menace and suspense to proceedings. The less revealed about his character, the better, as divulging anything more would risk spoiling one of the film’s most satisfying arcs. However, it’s safe to say he makes for one of the best-animated villains yet.

Puss in Boots 2 is a surprisingly stunning animated instalment with a unique visual style replicating that of Sony Animations’ Spider-Man: Intro the Spider-Verse and Netflix’s Arcane. With a ‘fairytale painting’ concept at the heart of the visuals, the mixed 2d and 3d animation is brought alive by a number of techniques, including differing frame rates, line work, textured backdrops which feel hand-painted, kinetic camera movements, impressive lighting and dynamic flourishes (such as the clash of blades) which seemingly pop off the screen. Thanks to animation studios like Sony and Dreamworks taking the plunge to incorporate new styles, perceptions on mainstream Western animation continue to change as the medium evolves into much more of a unique art form.

The animation department really does a phenomenal job of immersing you in the magical world packed full of fairytale characters, creatures and hugely creative environments, especially when exploring the incredibly colourful Black Forest full of varying landscapes. It’s undoubtedly the most visually compelling of the Shrek entries, and the thrilling action sequences are certainly on another level. The impressively captivating opening battle with a moss-covered troll instantly hooks you into proceedings, along with a chaotically fun Western-inspired ‘shootout’ between the three main adventuring parties (with a hilarious visual representation of the effects of unicorn horns as bullets) and the gripping climactic showdown with the villainous wolf which actually raises the stakes for once.

Composer Heitor Pereira’s (The Angry Birds and Minions: The Rise of Gru) wonderfully upbeat score also adds an intriguing combination of Latin rhythm and flair with Wild West-inspired cues to the action. Character themes are also brilliantly realised, with the terrifying whistle-heavy “Bounty Hunter” and the jovial “Meet Dog” proving standouts. Pereira also co-wrote the surprise banger “Fearless Hero” performed by Antonio Banderas – and trust me, you’ll be humming this tune long after the credits roll!


Contrary to the films’ lacklustre trailers, Puss in Boots: The Last Wish is perhaps one of the best entries in the Shrek universe to date, signalling a real return to form for Dreamworks Animation. Packed with plenty of comedy, a magical central quest and earnest heart, Banderas’ latest outing will undoubtedly resonate with moviegoers of all ages. What a start to a year packed full of truly exciting animated films!

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